Rule clarifies statements of reasonable accommodation

All federal job vacancy announcements must include a clearly worded statement of reasonable accommodation, according to a new rule from the Office of Personnel Management. The 1973 Rehabilitation Act requires agencies to provide reasonable accommodation to employees or applicants with disabilities, unless it causes an undue burden on the agency. A task force established in 1998 advised OPM and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to generate common language on reasonable accommodation statements and to require all federal agencies to include such statements on their vacancy announcements. While OPM issued a memorandum on March 2, 2000, instructing agencies to include a reasonable accommodation statement on all future vacancy announcements, the interim rule, published in the Federal Register Tuesday, provides additional guidance and suggested language. The rule adds a reasonable accommodation statement to the list of required information for all vacancy announcements published on USAJOBS, which lists federal job openings in the U.S. and abroad, and allows users to search by state, agency and occupation. Agencies can word their reasonable accommodation statements however they want, as long as the statements convey the basic message that reasonable accommodation will be provided, the rule states. The rule also cautions agencies not to single out any specific medical conditions as appropriate for a reasonable accommodation request. OPM suggests the following language for a statement of reasonable accommodation:
"This agency provides reasonable accommodation to applicants with disabilities where appropriate. If you need a reasonable accommodation for any part of the application and hiring process, please notify the agency. Determinations on requests for reasonable accommodation will be made on a case-by-case basis."
The rule further says that the reasonable accommodation statement should include contact information for a knowledgeable person who can answer questions about the agency's accommodation policy, "to prevent misinforming or frustrating the applicant with disabilities." Vacancies in the excepted service and the Senior Executive Service must also include reasonable accommodation statements. The interim regulations go into effect on Jan. 10, 2002. Comments are due on or before Feb. 11, 2002 and should be sent to:
Ellen E. Tunstall, Assistant Director for Employment Policy
Office of Personnel Management, Room 6500
1900 E Street N.W., Washington, D.C., 20415-9500
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