As I read and re-read the OFCCP’s14 points of guidance to employers interested in establishing a “best practice” reasonable accommodation program, Appendix B to the Section 503 regulations issued in August, I had a déjà vu moment. I kept thinking that I had previously read something remarkably similar to the 14 points.
It finally came to me. In response to an Executive Order requiring agencies to adopt reasonable accommodation policies for their employees, the EEOC has adopted “Procedures For Providing Reasonable Accommodation For Individuals with Disabilities.” All of the OFCCP’s suggested 14 points, in substance, are in the EEOC’s Procedures, albeit with a few modifications.
For example, the OFCCP’s guidance says that if supporting medical documentation is not needed, a request for a reasonable accommodation should be processed within 5 to 10 business days. If medical documentation is needed or special equipment must be ordered, the request should be processed within 30 calendar days, absent extenuating circumstances beyond the contractor’s control.
The EEOC has up to three times longer to process requests for accommodation. Its policy states that requests will be processed as soon as possible “but no later than 30 business days from the date the request is made.” Also, if the agency requests information from the requester’s doctor, the time counting stops on the day the request is made and resumes when the information is received. Any employer who has requested medical information in connection with a reasonable accommodation request knows that it can take some time, and multiple follow up calls, to obtain a response from the health care provider, The EEOC’s method of counting time for its own employees is more favorable that the OFCCP’s suggested time frame for contractors.
The OFCCP guidance also recommends that if a contractor’s processing of a request will exceed the established timeframes, that the contractor provide a signed and dated written notice to the requester, indicating the reason for the delay and projected date of a response. The EEOC Procedures do not have such a requirement.
Finally, the OFCCP guidance suggests contractors provide annual training to supervisors and managers. The EEOC Procedures do not address this topic.