Tentative Agreement: Access Needs/Reasonable Accommodations

Text of Access Needs Graphic:

Previous Contract (ASEs)

Contractually requires University to:

  • implement needed disability accommodations.
  • engage in an interactive process that mandates worker input to get the accommodations the worker wants, rather than allowing the University to unilaterally determine the accommodations.

Allows workers to enforce the contract through the grievance process if accommodations are not provided, or if the interactive process is not fair.

Tentative Agreements

UC would now also be required to:

Implement Interim Accommodations through the end of the interactive process, so that workers receive accommodations immediately when they are needed. Medical documentation is not required for interim measures.

Notify workers of their access needs rights in their appointment letter.

Establish a joint committee that will work to identify campus best practices on funding for workers’ access needs.

Note: The Leaves article would also give ASEs & SRs 8 weeks of fully-paid medical leave.



What we won in this tentative agreement

ASEs, Postdocs, ARs, and SRs all tentatively agreed on the same Access Needs article. The University is now required to:

  • Implement Interim Accomodations – the new article requires UC to implement accommodations on an interim basis, until the end of the interactive process, so that workers receive accommodations immediately when they are needed.
  • Include language about access needs in everyone’s appointment letter, so new workers are aware of their rights under the contract and know that they can have the support of a union representative throughout the interactive process (where workers have a say in how their access needs are met).
  • Establish a joint committee that will work to review data to analyze issues, and identify campus best practices on e.g. funding for workers Access Needs. 

Note: the Leaves article that is currently tentatively-agreed to gives workers 8 weeks of fully paid leave for serious medical issues.

What we’re building from

UAW 2865’s 2018-2022 contract contained an article titled “Reasonable Accomodations” (Article 23) which contains protections that are still in effect. That article accomplished the following for the first time in our workplace:

  • Contractually requires University to implement needed disability accommodations
  • Requires University to engage in an interactive process that mandates worker input to get the accommodations the worker wants, rather than allowing the University to unilaterally determine the accommodations
  • Allows workers to enforce the contract through the grievance process if accommodations are not provided, or if the interactive process is not fair
  • The 2018 contract also includes strong non-discrimination protections for disabled ASEs that are grievable and enforceable.

Is medical documentation required to obtain accommodations?

Under our 2018 contract, the University may require medical documentation to help identify the needed accommodations. “Medical documentation” refers to any document produced by a medical professional – a doctor, therapist, physical therapist, etc. “Medical documentation” does not refer to a diagnosis. Under the 2018 contract, no diagnosis is necessary to receive accommodations. The Access Needs article tentatively agreed on tonight leaves unchanged the 2018 contract language regarding medical documentation and does not require medical documentation to receive interim accommodations.

Sophie Worthington-Kirsch, UCD

“I’m truly overjoyed about the access needs/reasonable accommodations articles tentatively agreed to by the 2865 and SRU bargaining teams. As a disabled person, it’s been frustrating having to navigate the labyrinthine process of getting accommodations unsupported. 

This new article puts the whole weight of the union behind the process, with all the assurance of justice that comes from that power. In the past, when I’ve asked for my access needs to be met, I’ve been given the run around and suffered from serious delays in the process. 

I’ve been told that all I can do is file a complaint at the overworked ADA office — and wait for them to claim it’s not reasonable. Disability services at UC are inaccessible, complicated, and have very little recourse if the process doesn’t fulfill the needs.

This article means a lot of that would improve. The bargaining team fought hard for an excellent article, including regularly asking the disabled community of workers for their feedback on what was most important. 

Unfortunately, in the face of the UCs rampant ableism, we did not win everything we had originally proposed. (One UC negotiator mocked them for asking for more than the ADA requires.) However, what we got them to agree to gives us a structure to build on. 

We now have a right to interim measures for our access needs! We now get representation in our disability related meetings! We can now restructure job descriptions. We have a way to make sure the meetings happen promptly. 

And if any of this fails, we can file a grievance and enforce our rights! This contract is powerful and sets us up to be even more powerful in the future, and for that I’m relieved and excited.”

Michelle Kim Gardner, UC Irvine

I voted yes to ratify the contract because disabled workers need the right to receive interim accommodations as soon as we request them. Our tentative agreement on access needs is huge for me. I am a disabled worker and struggled to have my access needs met through UC’s current process. Last October, I applied for an accommodation due to my disability, which was making it extremely difficult for me to complete my Teaching Assistant duties. As I made my way through the interactive process to approve my leave of absence, the University forced me to work during a time that I should have spent healing. If ratified, our new contract would ensure that instead of waiting, workers can make the university implement a Temporary Work Adjustment (or interim measure) until they reach a solution while the interactive process is carried out. 

Ellie Coale, UCD

My name is Ellie, and I am a disabled grad student studying Genetics at UC Davis.

In December 2017, I grew sick with a viral illness and then several subsequent infections that lasted through June 2018. I was still sick even as I graduated–it was a miracle I was able to graduate at all. For the next 18 months, I suffered from intense coughing fits, so violent that I was in constant, full body pain and unable to leave my bed because of the fatigue. Later on, I would be diagnosed with asthma, and then just this year with POTs. 

Since moving to Davis, I have suffered daily asthma attacks–likely the change in environment and the exposure to new irritants–including one that landed me in the hospital. The bill from that hospital stay was 2k+. Now, I’ve begun to have a flare-up of POTs to the point that riding my bike to class makes me exhausted for hours. 

The access needs article presents to me possibly the first time in my life that I will be able to request accommodations that do not require formal medical documentation. POTs, while this is changing, is still hard to diagnose and few doctors can do so properly. The equipment alone to formally do so is incredibly expensive–my tilt-table test alone was 3k out of pocket. I cannot wait for a referral to a doctor that can give me a note to hand to UC saying I have POTs and need accommodations for my work and courses, while using up most of the benefits that I have. 

For the first time in my life, not only do I not need formal medical documentation to ask for accommodations, I can also file grievances if my needs are not met by the university fully and promptly. These are protections that have not existed before! With these articles, I can do my coursework and research alongside my peers. This, among many reasons, is why I will vote yes on this contract.

As disabled graduate workers at UCLA, we have been forced to accept the burden of establishing accommodations for our disabilities. Provisions outlined in our tentative agreements on Access Needs would make disability rights an enforceable area in our contract, and represents a meaningful improvement compared to the current bare minimum ADA.

Even with a disability, the average wait time to get an appointment with doctors to potentially obtain medical documentation for accommodations (acquiring a parking placard, accessible housing, etc.), can take 3-6 months. During this time, we would be forced to suffer without accommodations, or in a better case scenario, we would have to make our case with certain information pending, which has been difficult at times. However, with the new temporary accommodations in our agreements, we can now receive workplace accommodations while we wait for our appointments and medical documentation.

Furthermore, our rights as disabled workers have been almost exclusively at the whims of UC, usually only to benefit themselves. With this language in the contract, we can insist on our rights, with the support of our fellow unionized GSRs, and hold UC accountable through the recourse provisions in the contract. It is a great relief to us that the union-appointed Joint Committee on Workspace Accessibility will be working with UC to maintain and establish additional accommodations for disabled workers like ourselves. One of the goals of this team is to identify useful programs at different campuses and implement them statewide. As an example, UCLA has a reasonable access program that provides central funding for accommodations over $500, meaning that expensive accommodations are paid for by UC instead of coming from the lab budget.

The Access Needs article has lifted a weight from our shoulders that we never realized we were carrying. This article gives us tools to hold the UC accountable for its disabled employees and for that reason we are relieved the Access Needs article has passed. Although there is still so much work to be done to establish accessibility and disabled workers rights at UC, these are monumental improvements, which we have gained by organizing. Disabled workers will always keep fighting for our rights and this article gives us a strong foundation from which we can continue to build upon.

In Solidarity,

Alexis Weber (she/her/hers) Human Genetics, GSR

Jasmine Amerasekera (she/her/hers) Human Genetics, GSR

Samantha Jensen (she/her/hers) Human Genetics, GSR