Federal law protects qualified individuals with a disability from employment discrimination and harassment and requires federal agencies to provide them with a reasonable accommodation (RA) subject to legal limitations. Also, federal regulations require agencies to provide personal assistance services (PAS) to employees who have certain targeted disabilities, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the Agency.
Starting the RA or PAS process
The RA or PAS process begins as soon as a request is made, whether orally, in writing, or electronically via Accommodation Point, a confidential and secure case tracking system at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
The interactive process
Upon receipt of an RA or PAS request a specialist within the USPTO’s Office of Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity (OEEOD) will promptly be assigned to 1) obtain any necessary medical documentation; 2) clarify the job tasks that must be accomplished and potential RAs, if any, given the requester’s disability and essential job functions; and 3) obtain a statement from the supervisor, if necessary. If, in consultation with the requester, OEEOD, and the business unit, an interim RA can be implemented, it should be done as soon as is reasonably feasible. Implementation of an interim RA is not a guarantee that the accommodation will be granted in the final RA Decision.
The decision process
Once OEEOD obtains all the necessary information from the requester, the RA or PAS file goes to the designated deciding official in the requester’s business unit for review and determination of an appropriate/approved accommodation. When warranted, the USPTO will provide an effective accommodation, but not necessarily the specific RA requested.
The USPTO attempts to process RA and PAS requests swiftly. Absent extenuating circumstances, the timeframe for processing a request–from initiation up to providing and implementing the accommodation(s), if granted–is generally within 45 business days. Where possible, we will provide the RA or PAS in fewer than 45 days. The 45-day period is contingent on the requester’s cooperation during the interactive process.
RA and PAS decisions
Employees and their representatives will be notified in writing of the decision, with a copy provided to the requester’s supervisor, and the USPTO will take immediate steps to provide or implement the granted accommodation. If the USPTO denies the RA or PAS Request, the deciding official must still issue a written decision, with a copy provided to the employee’s supervisor clearly stating the reasons for the denial.
If the requester is dissatisfied with an RA or PAS decision, they have the right to 1) file a request for reconsideration of the decision; 2) and/or file an EEO complaint pursuant to 29 C.F.R. § 1614.106; or 3) make a request for alternative dispute resolution to Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Program Coordinator in OEEOD. They may have rights to pursue the matter through the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) or union grievance procedures. Details on appeal rights are provided in the RA or PAS decision.