University policy update aims to improve disability protections

January 6, 2016  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources,

The university’s employment policy for individuals with disabilities has been updated to ensure compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The Act helps protect people with disabilities from discrimination in employment and other activities, and the university’s revised policy (Standard Practice Guide 201.84) results from an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice to take specific policy and training steps.

The university’s SPG guides recruitment, employment and management responsibilities for reasonable workplace accommodations.

“A key change to our policy applies to the transfer and reassignment of faculty and staff needing accommodation due to disability,” said Laurita Thomas, associate vice president for Human Resources.

The ADA requires that qualified faculty and staff be provided opportunities for reassignment when a disability prevents them from performing the essential functions of their positions. Thomas says most accommodations for disabilities at U-M never require a change of jobs. However, when reassignment to a vacant position is the only way an employee with a disability can be reasonably accommodated, the ADA requires placement into an available job at the same level if possible, or lower level if no position at the same level is available, as long as the person is qualified for the position and can perform the essential duties of the job.

“Although the employee must be qualified for the job, he or she does not need to be the best qualified among all applicants for an open position when the job change is due to disability,” said Thomas, who sees this distinction as crucial to meeting federal requirements and an important component of an upcoming training program.

University Human Resources will provide required online training to central and unit HR staff, deans, directors and department heads across the university, and HR staff will receive training annually. Email notices will be sent to each faculty and staff member required to complete training.

“The university wants to remove barriers that could prevent individuals with disabilities from having the same opportunities as others,” said Thomas. “The support and participation of the campus are important in order to meet our obligations and to help ensure inclusive workplaces across all of our campuses and in the U-M Health System.”

See revised SPG 201.84 at