Providing Reasonable Accommodations for Employees with Disabilities and Working with Pregnant Employees

Employees with disabilities, who would like to request accommodations in their work environment, have a great resource in the Office of Employee Relations (OER). Academic Specialist, Dr. Julie DeGraw (degrawju@msu.edu), leads and coordinates the accommodation process. The accommodation process empowers units and employees with disabilities to do their best work by establishing timely and reasonable accommodation plans that follow the Michigan State University Disability and Reasonable Accommodation Policy

Employees begin the process by registering with the Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD). Once RCPD determines that the employee fits the criteria of having a disability, they will be referred to OER/Dr. DeGraw to complete the interactive process. Dr. DeGraw will meet with both the employee and the supervisor/unit to review and gather input about the employee’s essential duties and the requested accommodations.   

The employee, or OER on behalf of the employee, may ask units for temporary accommodations until the accommodations process is complete. These temporary accommodations are only in place while the employee is going through the process and may not be approved beyond a temporary time frame. If the unit has any questions or concerns about providing such a temporary accommodation, it should contact OER/Dr. DeGraw.  

Employees who experience an impairment related to pregnancy or childbirth (for example, gestational diabetes or preeclampsia) that substantially impacts their work may also qualify as having a disability or a temporary disability. Reasonable accommodations may need to be provided. Please refer any employee seeking accommodations related to pregnancy or childbirth to OER/Dr. DeGraw. Additional helpful information regarding pregnancy discrimination and reasonable accommodations can be reviewed at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Please let us know if the Office of Employee Relations (HR.ER@msu.edu) can help in any way to support you and your employees.  

Cherelyn Dunlap Joins Human Resources to Fortify the MSU Approach for Employees with Disabilities

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Cherelyn Dunlap from the Office of Employee Relations, MSU HR.

MSU Human Resources is excited to introduce Cherelyn Dunlap, who joins our Office of Employee Relations (OER) team in a new role that will work closely with the MSU Resource Center for Persons with Disabilities (RCPD). This new role was created to help streamline the process and experience for employees with disabilities who are seeking accommodations to help them perform their job duties.

The OER Director Rick Fanning is thrilled to have Cherelyn on board, “We are happy that Cherelyn has joined us in Employee Relations. She brings a great deal of knowledge and experience in the accommodation process, and I am sure that her work will be a valuable addition to MSU.”

Cherelyn’s considerable work experience includes 20 years as a Labor Relations Representative and Benefits Director for the Michigan Corrections Organization and an Employee Relations Specialist for the Auto Club Group (also known as AAA). Her extensive knowledge of benefits, insurances, FMLA, Workers’ Compensation, and retirement, in addition to managing accommodation requests, makes her well-equipped to take on this new role at the university.

Along with her knowledge and skillset, Cherelyn shows a genuine enthusiasm for impacting and improving someone’s work experience, which makes her a true asset to the MSU community.  “At an institution where inclusion is paramount, we must ensure that individuals with disabilities feel confident in knowing the university will strive to meet their needs. The RCPD has been diligent in providing this service thus far, and it is my desire to help find ways to continue, and improve, this important work moving forward,” says Cherelyn.

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There are many different scenarios where an accommodation could improve an employee’s work experience. Cherelyn explains, “When we think of an individual with a disability, we think of someone with a physical disability we can see; however, there are many individuals working with disabilities we cannot see.” For example, a person who suffers from migraine headaches may complain that their condition is brought on by the glare from their computer screen. An accommodation could be to provide the employee with a screen overlay to diminish the glare from their computer.

Other accommodations could be more advanced. People who develop arthritis in their hands can have difficulty performing any job functions that require them to type and use a computer. Manipulating the computer keys and mouse exacerbates the individual’s arthritis. An accommodation could be to provide the employee with software which allows them to use talk to text. The software learns the various programs the employee utilizes, and the employee uses a headset or handheld microphone to speak the words that should go into the spreadsheet, report, email, etc.

Cherelyn is quick to point out that every employee is unique, and the accommodation recommended is entirely based on the individual’s needs and determined on a case-by-case basis. Cherelyn and the team of professionals at the RCPD are ready to assist employees with resources that create an environment of opportunity.

Michael Hudson, RCPD Director remarks, “Cherelyn arrives with extensive HR experience that will fortify inclusion efforts for people with disabilities in the workplace. RCPD will continue to welcome persons with disabilities with an ability-centered approach and innovative solutions while HR formalizes these into reasonable accommodations.” You can learn more about the RCPD in this recent MSUToday article.

What is the Process for Receiving an Accommodation?

If you believe you have a condition that could be improved by an accommodation, the following steps will help guide you through the process:

  1. You should register with the RCPD and make a written request for an accommodation. You must also provide the RCPD with medical documentation of the disability.
  2. The RCPD then determines whether you have a qualifying disability, as defined by the law and the university policy.
  3. After the RCPD has determined the condition qualifies as a disability, Cherelyn will begin consulting with RCPD on the case and promptly begin the accommodation process.

MSU HR and RCPD are thrilled to have Cherelyn join the Employee Relations team and are looking forward to her contributions to MSU!

Questions? Please visit the RCPD website to learn more about how employees with disabilities can find assistance at MSU or to register your own disability with the RCPD.