Employment and Accommodation Under the Americans with Disabilities Act

Policy Approval Authority President
Responsible Division Human Resources Services
Responsible Officer(s) Chief Human Resources Officer
Contact Person John Acardo
Primary Audience Faculty
Status Active
Last Review Date 07-30-2018
Policy Category/Categories Human Resources / Employment

I. Purpose

Northern Illinois University ("NIU"; or "the university";) is committed to the promotion of a positive and supportive employment and academic environment for all disabled individuals. This policy is applicable to all faculty, supportive professional staff, operating staff, applicants for employment, students, student employees, and student applicants at all NIU campus locations, including DeKalb, Hoffman Estates, Naperville, Oregon and Rockford, Illinois.

II. Policy

Prohibited Discrimination of Persons with Disabilities

Employment or academic decisions based upon an applicant's, employee's or student's physical or mental disability are hereby prohibited. Such decisions are also prohibited by NIU's Non-Discrimination/Harassment Policy and Complaint Procedures for Employees and Students. Retaliation against someone who has complained of discrimination or participated in any way in such a complaint or investigation is also considered unlawful and is prohibited under the ADA, this policy, and other policies of the university.

Any employee or student who experiences and/or witnesses possible acts of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation on the basis of disability has the right and/or responsibility to report such activity to the applicable university administrator or to the Ethics and Compliance Office ("ECO") immediately. All complaints and/or allegations of discrimination will be examined carefully in a reasonably efficient and confidential manner and may result in suitable corrective action. For more information, please consult the Nondiscrimination and Harassment Policy and applicable appendices or contact ECO at 753-5560 for a copy.


In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, as amended by the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act ("ADA"), 42 U.S.C. § 12101 et seq., Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 701 et seq., state laws and university policy, NIU will provide reasonable accommodation to all applicants, employees and students with a disability as defined by these statutes and subject to applicable undue hardship limitations of the ADA. "Reasonable accommodation" may include, but is not limited to:

  • Job restructuring
  • Accessible facilities
  • Reassignment
  • Acquisition or modification of job/educational equipment and/or related devices
  • Other accommodations as determined by the procedures outlined in this policy

Procedure for Current Employees Who Need to Request Reasonable Accommodation

Step One - Declaration/Request

A current employee who believes he/she requires an accommodation to perform the duties of his/her position due to a disability may request that accommodation through the Accommodation Request Form. This form can also be obtained by contacting the Office of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ADEI) at 815-753-8399.

The completed Accommodation Request Form can be delivered to the employee's supervisor/chairperson and will then be forwarded, along with any and all medical or psychiatric records submitted in support of the request, to the ADA Coordinator in theOffice of Academic Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Altgeld Hall 211, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Illinois 60115. Requests for accommodation may also be submitted directly to the ADA Coordinator.

Accommodation is an interactive process between NIU and the employee. Requests for accommodations are reviewed by the ADA Coordinator or designee as soon as practicable, on a case-by-case basis, and circumstances may require the submission of additional information or an independent examination or evaluation (at NIU's expense) for the university to make the determination. NIU will not be required to provide accommodations without appropriate documentation when requested.

If an employee makes a request for accommodation(s) to his/her supervisor, the supervisor may contact ADEI for assistance. If an employee discloses a disability but there is no formal request for accommodation(s), departments are encouraged to implement informal workplace modifications that address limitations of the employee with regard to that disclosed disability. If an informal modification is made, the supervisor should submit written notification of the accommodation(s) to ADEI immediately. Completion of an Accommodation Request Form may be required.

Note: an employee who approaches his/her supervisor/chairperson with a request for accommodation due to a disability need not use the phrase "reasonable accommodation" or expressly invoke the ADA. Rather, if an employee requests adjustment to his/her work area, equipment, or duties due to a disclosed physical or mental impairment, the supervisor/chairperson shall consider this a request for a reasonable accommodation and follow the appropriate steps as outlined herein.


Strict confidentiality requirements pertain to disability disclosures, accommodation requests, and related procedures. The Accommodation Request Form and accompanying information will be maintained by ECO in a separate file from the permanent employee personnel file that is located in Human Resource Services. Thus, any and all information pertaining to the disability will be treated as confidential and will only be shared with university administrators and officials on a need-to-know basis. Departments are prohibited from maintaining their own files pertaining to requests for reasonable accommodation. Additionally, faculty and staff with knowledge of a disability disclosure or accommodation made for an employee or a student must maintain strict confidentiality. Reported violations of these confidentiality protocols are subject to investigation and may result in disciplinary procedures.

Step Two - ADA Coordinator

Upon receipt of the Accommodation Request Form and any necessary documentation, the ADA Coordinator will, as soon as possible, consider if accommodation is necessary, available, and reasonable. Employee and departmental input regarding the accommodation process and request is welcomed and encouraged.

Determining if a Qualified Disability Exists

Not all illnesses, conditions, and/or impairments are considered a "disability" under this policy and/or applicable state and federal laws. Prior to implementation of any reasonable accommodation, the ADA Coordinator will utilize applicable ADA laws and guidelines to determine if a disability exists and/or if the individual can be qualified as a person with a disability.

Employees may be asked to provide documentation or verification regarding their disability. Some of the factors to be considered by the ADA Coordinator when deciding if verification or additional documentation will be required are:

  • Has the employee sought assistance previously from ADEI such that information regarding the disability is already available?
  • Is the disability visibly apparent?
  • If verification or additional documentation is determined to be necessary, it is expected that the employee will complete the Release of Information and/or Documentation and return it to the ADA Coordinator.
Determining Reasonable Accommodation(s)

Once a disability has been identified, the university will make reasonable accommodation(s) for that employee upon request if such will enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the job unless an undue burden to the Department or University will result from the accommodation(s) pursuant to the ADA. The factors and information that will be utilized to determine if an accommodation is necessary and reasonable include, but are not limited to:

  • Is the task for which the accommodation is sought necessary/essential to the duties of the employee's position?
  • Is the employee otherwise qualified to perform the essential job functions?
  • Will the accommodation allow the employee to effectively perform the essential duties of his/her position?
  • Does the accommodation impose any hardship and, if so, how much?
  • Is there another, more cost effective option that would allow the individual to perform the essential functions of the job?

Additionally, information received from external accommodation specialists, such as those associated with job accommodation networks and/or rehabilitation specialists, may be utilized.

Reasonable accommodations may include, but are not limited to:

  • Job restructuring
  • Accessible facilities
  • Reassignment to another position or shift
  • Reassignment of non-essential duties
  • Acquisition or modification of job equipment and/or related devices

Although accommodation is an interactive process between the employee and NIU, the accommodation that is implemented may not be that requested by the employee; rather, based upon the factors listed above, NIU will decide the appropriate reasonable accommodation. Continued evaluation of the effectiveness of the approved accommodation(s) will be conducted by the employing department and the ADA Coordinator. Modifications may be made upon the request of any party. At the request of the employing unit, consultation, education and/or staff training can be conducted to ensure successful transition/inclusion of the employee into the unit.

Denying a Request for Reasonable Accommodation(s)

The university may deny a request for reasonable accommodation(s). Factors that may result in the denial of a request for reasonable accommodation include, but are not limited to:

  • Whether the employee will be unable to fulfill the essential duties associated with the position even with accommodation. This consideration will involve careful review of the essential functions associated with the job description and the factors that may prevent the employee from fulfilling those responsibilities;
  • Whether an undue hardship will result if the request for reasonable accommodation(s) is approved. An undue hardship is defined, pursuant to the ADA, as an action that requires significant difficulty or expense, or that poses a direct threat to the health and/or safety of the employee or others, and will be determined on a case-by-case basis by the university.

In the event an employee with a disability cannot be accommodated, the employee will be subject to the provisions of the university and Board of Trustees' policies regarding leaves of absence, use of sick benefits, and/or applicable disability benefits.

If feasible, the ADA Coordinator will explore the possibility of placement in another position or department within the university. The appropriate Human Resource Coordinator (if the employee is a civil service employee) and/or Employee and Labor Relations can assist in the effort to locate alternate employment opportunities at NIU. An attempt to locate a comparable position with a similar level of responsibilities and pay range will be sought. However, positions with less responsibilities or a change in pay and/or status may also need to be considered.

The employee may appeal the decision as follows.

Step Three - Appeal Procedures

The employee has the right to appeal the initial decision regarding the type of accommodation(s) that has been approved and/or the denial of a request to provide reasonable accommodation(s). First, the employee should submit a written appeal to the ADA Coordinator within fourteen (14) calendar days. The written appeal should clearly state the reason for the appeal and be accompanied by all applicable information and/or additional documentation to support the request and appeal. Within a reasonable amount of time, the ADA Coordinator will review the written statement of appeal, additional information, initial request, and may also consult with the department or the applicable administrative official prior to rendering a decision.

All decisions of the ADA Coordinator will be forwarded to the chief diversity officer or university designee for final determination. The chief diversity officer or designee will review the written statement of appeal, the initial request, any additional information, and may consult with the applicable administrative official, ADA Coordinator, and/or the ADA committee (if applicable) prior to rendering a final decision. The chief diversity officer or designee will issue a decision within fourteen (14) days from the date the written appeal is received unless additional time is required. In such a case, the employee will be so notified prior to the expiration of the initial fourteen (14) days.

The employee/applicant can always file a formal affirmative action complaint with ECO or file an external complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the Office of Civil Rights, or the Illinois Human Rights Commission. For more information on how to file a complaint with these agencies, consult the Non-Discrimination/Harassment Policies and Complaint Procedures for Employees and Students or contact the Office of Ethics and Compliance for a copy of the policy.

Questions regarding this policy or complaints can be forwarded to:

ADA Coordinator
Altgeld Hall 211
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL 60115

Procedure for Applicants Who Need to Request Reasonable Accommodation

NIU remains committed to ensuring that its recruitment and application procedures include full opportunities for applicants with disabilities. Employment opportunities will not be denied to anyone because of the need to make accommodations for a person's disability during either the application or interview process.

Thus, the general principles and the procedures applicable to employees apply to applicants and interviewees in addition to the following, which can be requested of the ADA Coordinator:

  • Application materials can be made available to an applicant in different formats
  • Accommodations can be made for a scheduled interviewee
  • Information about an applicant's disability is confidential and will not be shared with search committee members or decision-makers in the hiring process
  • Newly hired employees may request accommodations following the same procedures as employees
Disability and Medical Exams

NIU will not ask a job applicant to answer medical questions, take a medical exam, or identify a disability before extending a job offer. NIU may ask a job applicant whether they can perform the job and how they would perform the job, with or without reasonable accommodation.

When a job offer is extended, NIU may condition that offer on the applicant answering certain questions or successfully passing an exam but only if all new employees in the same type of job have to answer the questions or take the exam.

Procedure for Students Who Need to Request Reasonable Accommodation

NIU is committed to providing an accessible educational environment in collaboration with the Disability Resource Center (DRC). Any student seeking an accommodation due to a disability should contact the Disability Resource Center, located on the 4th floor of the Health Services building. Students may contact the Center in person, via phone at 815-753-1303, or via email at drc@niu.edu. Additional details regarding barrier reduction, inclusion, and accommodations for students with disabilities may be found at the DRC. Students are encouraged to contact the DRC at their earliest convenience, upon realizing that accommodations may be necessary, in order to ensure timely and effective provision of accommodations.


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