Human Resource Services

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Workplace Accommodation Services

Workplace Accommodation Services

Supporting Services for UNI Faculty and Staff

Human Resource Services (HRS) is committed to ensuring faculty, staff, prospective employees, and visitors with disabilities have equal access at the University of Northern Iowa. We understand that in order to create a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment, we must provide individualized support to employees. Sometimes this support comes in the form of reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities or pregnancy-related limitations. The accommodation process is intended to be interactive and collaborative, relying on open communication and active participation between employees and UNI.

Reasonable Accommodations

An accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to enjoy equal employment opportunities. When employees with disabilities or pregnancy-related limitations face barriers in the workplace, providing reasonable accommodations may assist in removing those barriers.

  • Whether or not an accommodation is reasonable will vary depending on the position the employee holds, the way their disability affects their ability to do their job, and the environment that they work in.
  • Reasonable accommodations for employees are determined based on the anticipated effectiveness with some consideration given to cost versus benefit.

An accommodation is not considered reasonable if it is not effective, removes essential job functions, creates an undue hardship to the University, or poses a direct threat to the employee or others.

  • Lowering standards of conduct or performance expectations is not considered a reasonable accommodation as employees with disabilities are held to the same job requirements as employees without disabilities or accommodations.

The primary goal of this process is to help employees perform all of the essential functions of their current position, with or without accommodation.

Job applicants who need reasonable accommodations during the application or hiring process should contact or call 319-273-2422.

Employee Eligibility

Any employee who is considered disabled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), regardless of position or tenure, may qualify for reasonable accommodations. To be eligible for reasonable accommodation under the ADA, an employee must have an impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, or a record of such an impairment.

  • Disabilities cover a broad spectrum under the law. When an employee is eligible and needs assistance to perform their essential job functions, we accommodate them whether or not their disabilities are obvious to others.
  • Not all employees with disabilities will require the same accommodations and some employees with disabilities may not require any workplace accommodations.
  • Each accommodation request is evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine whether the employee’s situation necessitates an accommodation to perform the essential functions of their position.

Employees with limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions that make it harder to do their job may be provided reasonable accommodations under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA).

Request a Workplace Accommodation

If you are an employee with a disability or pregnancy-related limitation that is affecting your ability to perform your job, you may request a reasonable accommodation by informing your supervisor of your need and/or completing the workplace accommodation request form.

  • Supervisors who receive accommodation requests should inform the Leave & Accommodations Coordinator in HRS to initiate the interactive process.
  • Unless documentation is already on file in HRS, employees will be asked to provide written certification from their healthcare provider explaining their need for an accommodation.
  • For employees with obvious impairments, medical certification is not required to determine eligibility; however, healthcare provider recommendations may be beneficial in the interactive process.
  • Employee requests for workplace accommodations related to COVID-19 situations will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with applicable ADA standards.
  • Student employees who require a workplace accommodation should follow the same process as other UNI employees.

Interactive Process

Once a request for accommodation has been initiated and recognized by the supervisor and HRS, the following steps will take place.

  1. The Leave & Accommodations Coordinator will gather information to understand what barriers the employee is experiencing and why.
  2. Options for reasonable accommodations will be explored by engaging in interactive communication with employee, supervisor, and possible outside resources.
    • If necessary, a trial period may be considered to be sure the accommodation will be effective.
  3. Once a reasonable accommodation is identified and agreed upon, the employee and supervisor will be notified via email, memo, and/or letter.
  4. Employees and/or supervisors should communicate any issues with the accommodation after it has been implemented.
  5. If an accommodation is not available or reasonable, the employee will be notified in writing and alternative options may be discussed.

Please note: Employees are not required to accept an accommodation; however, if an employee needs an accommodation to perform the essential functions of their job and refuses to accept an effective accommodation, they may no longer be qualified to remain in the job.

Pregnancy Accommodations

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act aims to protect the rights of pregnant employees and went into effect on June 27, 2023. Similar to the ADA, the PWFA requires the university to engage in the interactive process to identify reasonable accommodations that will enable the pregnant employee to remain in active work status.

  • For minor workplace adjustments, supervisors may be able to implement requests without going through the formal interactive process with HRS.
  • Requests requiring job duty modifications, environmental changes, equipment purchases, or other significant actions may require documentation and consultation with the Leave & Accommodations Coordinator.
  • Pregnant employees experiencing limitations with performing their job should inform their supervisor that they need a change and complete the workplace accommodations request form. A written certification from a healthcare professional explaining the need for the accommodation may be required.
  • Nursing parents who require a location and break time to express breast milk for one year after the child's birth do not need to request formal accommodations for this purpose but should discuss the need for lactation breaks with their supervisor.

The primary goal of this process is to help employees perform the essential functions of their current position, with or without accommodation during and after pregnancy.


HRS maintains confidentiality of medical information and such records shall not be released except as required by law.

  • An eligible employee's restrictions, limitations and recommended accommodations may be discussed with necessary supervisory staff and is only shared as a matter of business necessity to ensure the accommodation is implemented.
  • In cases where disclosing the disability is necessary to implement the accommodation, the employee will be consulted regarding the limited information that may need to be provided to supervisory staff.

Reporting a Concern

If you feel your rights under the Rehabilitation Act, ADAA, Title VII, or the PWFA have been violated, you may contact the Office of Compliance and Equity Management and/or utilize the procedures outlined in the Discrimination, Harassment, and Sexual Misconduct Policy. The Assistant to the President for Compliance and Equity Management is the designated ADA Compliance Officer.

Accommodations for Students

Students with disabilities in need of academic and campus experience accommodations should connect with Student Accessibility Services to begin the process. For more information please visit

Supervisor Resources

Learning Opportunity: FMLA & ADA Supervisor Responsibilities
Supervisor’s Role in Workplace Accommodations
UNI Policy 13.15 Campus Accessibility & Accommodations of Disabilities
Summary of Employee Conduct and Performance Standards Under the ADA
Pregnant Workers Fairness Act

Contact Information

Melissa Ward
Leave & Accommodations Coordinator

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. 1Q: What qualifies as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?

    1A: According to the Federal law, an individual with a disability is anyone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits or restricts conditions, manner or duration under which an average person can perform one or more major life activities. It is also important to note that unlike the ADA, no disability is required for reasonable accommodations under the PWFA. The PWFA requires only that there be a known limitation related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition.

  2. 2Q: What are essential job functions?

    2A: Essential job functions are the duties an employee must be able to perform, with or without an accommodation. Employers determine which functions are essential and identify those in the written job description.

  3. 3Q: What should I do if I need to request a workplace accommodation due to disability or pregnancy-related limitations?

    3A: You should inform your supervisor and/or complete the rkplace accommodation request form in order to initiate the interactive process. You may also be asked to provide documentation to support your request.

  4. 4Q: What are some examples of reasonable workplace accommodations?

    4A: Work Environment: office arrangements, ramps, handrails, lighting, ergonomic furniture, light versus sound alarms, modified workstations, air purifiers, parking.

    Schedules/ Procedures: flexible work hours, work days, lunch hours/breaks, part-time hours, additional training, modified approach to task completion, change in communication methods.

  5. 5Q: Who is responsible for expenses associated with a workplace accommodation?

    5A: In most cases, the expense for workplace accommodations is the responsibility of the employee's department. If costs are an issue, the supervisor should contact the HRS Leave & Accommodations Coordinator to determine options that might be available.

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