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Reasonable Accommodation Request Denied? What’s Next?

Document with denied stamped on it sitting on a wooden table.

A Reasonable Accommodation (RA) is any change or modification in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done, including an exception to a particular office policy and/or procedures, which would enable a qualified individual with a disability to apply for a position, perform the essential functions of a position, and/or enjoy equal employment opportunities. Some examples of reasonable accommodation include better accessibility to facilities, telework, a sign language interpreter, an adjusted work schedule, modified equipment, or job restructuring.

Why would your request be denied?

  • Insufficient medical documentation
  • Inactivity beyond 30 business days
  • Medical condition does not meet the legal standard for a disability
  • RA would not be effective
  • Requires removal of an essential function
  • Requires lowering a performance or production standard
  • Would result in undue hardship or direct threat

If you have requested a RA and your request was denied, there are still some steps you can take.

Next steps to take if you have gone through the reasonable accommodation process and your request was denied:

  1. You may request the first-line manager reconsider their decision on the reasonable accommodation request.
    • Be specific about what you need and ensure there is clear communication with your direct supervisor.
    • It is always helpful to provide any additional supporting information.
    • Consider alternatives.
  2. If your first-line manager affirms the previous decision, then you may request further reconsideration from the second-line manager.
    • Keep a record of your conversations with your supervisors.
    • As before, it is always helpful to provide any additional supporting information.
    • Keep the lines of communication open.
  3. If you feel like you have been discriminated against based on your disability, you can file an EEO Complaint at any time during the RA process.
    • You must contact EDI to obtain the assistance of an EEO counselor within 45 calendar days of the alleged discriminatory act. This time limit shall be extended where the aggrieved person shows that (1) he or she was not notified of the time limits and was not otherwise aware of them; (2) he or she did not and reasonably should not have known that the discriminatory matter occurred; (3) despite due diligence, he or she was prevented by circumstances beyond his or her control from contacting an EEO counselor within the required 45 day time limit.
    • Complaints can be filed online. If you require another method of submission, please contact
    • A counselor will explain the EEO process and timeline.
  4. File a Grievance (Bargaining Unit & Administrative)
    • Bargaining Unit Employees must use the negotiated procedures outlined in their collective bargaining agreements. Please consult your union representative for details.
    • Non-Bargaining Unit Employees must follow procedures set forth in the Administrative Grievance process.

RA is integral to promoting an inclusive and diverse environment—and inclusion helps to make an organization safe and welcoming for visitors and employees.

If you are an applicant, employee, or visitor with a qualifying disability, you have the right to request a reasonable accommodation. The NIH Reasonable Accommodation Program will start the interactive process, which is a flexible dialogue that focuses on clarifying the individual's needs, exploring potential accommodations, and ultimately identifying an effective reasonable accommodation(s).

To learn more about the NIH Reasonable Accommodation policies and procedures, please visit the newly published NIH Manual Chapter 2204: Reasonable Accommodation.

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