MODIFICATIONS AND ACCOMMODATIONS FOR FACULTY, STAFF AND GRADUATE ASSISTANTS AT GREATER RISK OF COVID-19
During the academic year 2020-2021, due to the unique circumstances of the pandemic, in many instances, the University elected to temporarily exceed certain legal requirements imposed by the ADA in granting accommodations related to or required because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As such, these accommodations may have temporarily relieved certain essential functions of the employee’s job during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as being required to be physically present on campus for the academic year 20-21. Because of the temporary nature of these accommodations, the accommodations should in no way be construed to permanently relieve the employee of any essential functions of the employee’s position, including but not limited to, instructing courses in person or being physically on campus.
Given the changing nature of the pandemic, effective COVID-19 treatments, vaccines, and state and federal guidelines, the University is reviewing the need for employee accommodations specific to COVID-19 for the 2021-2022 academic year.
The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced a host of new features to our lives, and as we prepare for the Summer and Fall 2021 semesters and beyond, planning is underway at WVU to address every aspect of our campus operations. A critical component of this planning is how we welcome our faculty and staff back to our campuses.
ADA DISABILITIES AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS
Specific medical conditions that require job-related modifications due to the COVID-19 pandemic are being addressed as ADA accommodations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals with certain conditions or factors may have a higher risk for severe COVID-19 infection. For more information on high risk conditions, visit the CDC website.
Though certain factors do not meet the definition of a disability per the ADA Amendments Act, they may still be considered for modification of duties. These factors include:
· Age 65 or older
· Pregnancy or Breast Feeding
· Care-giving role/living with a high-risk family member
THE INTERACTIVE PROCESS
Reasonable modifications will be determined on a case-by-case basis, based upon verifiable ADA conditions, and non- ADA factors. Provisions such as ADA accommodations, modified duty, temporary adjustments, FMLA or other WVU leave may be available.
The University will review requests in an interactive process with the ADA Coordinator or Medical Management and leadership (Supervisor, Chair, Dean, Provost’s Office, etc.) to ensure that the modification is reasonable and does not present an undue hardship based on operational need. If a modification is not readily available, alternative, yet effective, options will be considered during the interactive process.
It’s important to note that online classes and remote work assignments will not be available in every instance, and this availability is dependent on the essential functions of the position. All faculty, and graduate assistants are expected to return to campus for the Spring 2022 semester. Faculty, staff, GA’s should consider all possible accommodations options, not simply remote options. Possible modification options include:
For Faculty and GAs
- Switching class times or meeting patterns to a “safer” option (for example, teach a class one day a week, early evening when there are typically fewer students on campus)
- Having a mixed schedule of remote, face-to-face, hybrid teaching to reduce exposure
- Requesting a larger room with greater social distancing
- Requesting a classroom that allows for greater distancing between the instructor and the first row of students
- Requesting specific PPE not typically provided to instructors (gloves, throw-away gown, etc.)
- Working with Facilities to identify access and exit route that are not so crowded
- Requesting cleaning of instructor’s desk, door handles, etc. before class starts
- Requesting additional or specific PPE not typically provided (gloves, throw-away gown, etc.)
- Requesting a work schedule at non-peak hours
- Requesting a mixed schedule of remote and on campus work to reduce exposure
- Working with Facilities to identify access and exit route that are not so crowded
- Requesting a workspace with greater social distancing
- Requesting plexiglass or other barrier types for workspace
If alternative modifications are not effective or reasonable, other options may include the use of FMLA, Family First Coronavirus Response Act, or other available leave provisions or modifications.
We strongly recommend that you communicate with your supervisor or department Chair as soon as possible, and prior to submitting a request, and work with them to complete a modification plan. Completing the draft plan will significantly reduce the time that will be required to process this modification request. However, the suggested plan below is not guaranteed, and a final adjustment must be determined through the interactive process.
TO REQUEST A MODIFICATION
All modification requests can be made at:
Faculty, staff and GAs are strongly encouraged to submit their requests for modification for Spring 2022 between now and November 1. Formal decision notifications for requests submitted in this timeframe will be sent to applicants in early December.
Required Documentation for Your Request
All employees must provide updated medical documentation that supports the need for accommodations and modifications for the spring 2022 semester. Medical documentation may need to be updated periodically as new information becomes relevant to the accommodation or modification process.
For ADA Accommodations, you
must provide the ADA Acknowledgement of Understanding and the ADA
COVID 19 Accommodation Request Form, which must be completed by your
medical provider. You will be provided these forms upon completion of the
Qualtrics applications. These forms can additionally
For non-ADA modification needs, you must provide documentation to Medical Management. This may include documentation related to increased risk due to age, pregnancy and breast feeding, or of your family member’s high-risk medical condition. These forms can be obtained through WVU Medical Management. Due to increased operational needs on campus modifications related to family member’s conditions may be limited.
All information is collected and managed, confidentially. No medical information is disclosed during the interactive process. Please return your documentation by email to: Coronavirusmodification@mail.wvu.edu. Or by confidential fax to 304-293-2644.
KEY FACTORS TO REMEMBER:
· The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) should be utilized to determine accommodations for individuals at a greater risk of serious illness from COVID-19, or for employees with underlying medical conditions.
· Supervisors and their employees with disabilities and underlying medical conditions should engage in the interactive process of accommodation.
· Accommodations are highly individualized and are intended to remove barriers to productive employee labor and engagement while addressing the employee’s disability-related limitations.
· The interactive process of accommodation may require an employee to provide medical documentation that substantiates the disability or underlying medical condition.
· The employee must be able to perform the essential duties of their job.
· An accommodation is not reasonable if it presents an undue hardship, per the ADA.
A professor with heart disease who is 60 years old was accommodated with the option to teach a smaller cohort rather than a larger cohort for the fall semester.
A research assistant with Type II Diabetes was accommodated by limiting capacity in his lab and a PPE lab procedure was developed for the enclosed research area.
A front desk attendant with asthma was accommodated with a plexiglass barrier placed in front of his desk so that he can conduct high-volume work with public interaction. He used PPE and physical distancing guides where placed on the floor in front of the service desk.
A supervisor with COPD was accommodated by conducting supervision meetings on-line or by phone, from her office. Instead of her standard “open door” policy, individuals were asked to contact her by electronic means to address emerging supervision needs.
An inventory specialist with an immune deficiency was accommodated by working remotely to complete duties that could be achieved at home. This constituted approximately 60% of duties. For work tasks that required on-campus work, the employee would wear PPE, engage in physical distancing, and conduct work at non-peak hours.
Jill Hess, ADA Coordinator
GUIDANCE AND RESOURCES
Equal Employment Policy Commission (EEOC) Coronavirus Resources
Job Accommodation Network: Accommodation and Compliance: Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)
US Dept. of Labor-Office of Disability Employment Policy Coronavirus Information and Resources
CDC: People Who Are at Higher Risk for Severe Illness
Employees: How to Cope with Job Stress and Build Resilience During the COVID-19 Pandemic