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What Qualifies as a Reasonable Accommodation for Federal Employees?

Federal employees that are disabled due to mental or physical disabilities have the right to request reasonable accommodations in the workplace. The Rehabilitation Act or the ADA agency requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to workers depending on the severity of the disability and other factors. Our federal employment law attorneys explain the common types of reasonable accommodations requested and granted.

What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), reasonable accommodations can apply to the duties of the job and where and how job tasks are performed. The accommodation should make it easier for the employee to successfully perform the duties of the position.

Examples of reasonable accommodations include:

Job Restructuring

A common type of reasonable accommodation is job restructuring. Job restructuring includes modifications such as reallocating or redistributing job functions that an employee is unable to perform because of a disability. It also includes altering when and how a function is performed.

Leave

Another common type of reasonable accommodation requested is the use of accrued paid leave or unpaid leave. An employer does not have to provide paid leave beyond what is already provided to similarly-situated employees. Employees with a disability should exhaust their accrued paid leave first before requesting additional unpaid leave. An employee with a disability may request leave for various reasons, including:

  • Obtaining medical treatment
  • Recuperating from an illness
  • Avoiding temporary adverse working conditions
  • Training a service animal
  • Receiving training to learn sign language, etc.

Modified or Part-Time Schedule

An employee may request a modified schedule as a reasonable accommodation. A modified schedule may involve:

  • Adjusting arrival or departure times
  • Providing periodic breaks
  • Altering when certain functions are performed
  • Allowing an employee to use accrued paid leave, or
  • Providing additional unpaid leave

An employer must provide a modified or part-time schedule when required as a reasonable accommodation, absent undue hardship, even if it does not provide such schedules for other employees.

Modified Workplace Policies

It is a reasonable accommodation to modify a workplace policy when needed by a worker with disabilities. However, reasonable accommodation only requires that the employer modify the policy for an employee who requires such action because of a disability; so, the employer may continue to apply the policy to all other employees.

Reassignment

If an employee with disabilities is unable to perform their current role adequately because of their health’s limitations, they can request reassignment to a vacant position; unless the employer can show that it would be an undue hardship. The employee must be “qualified” for the new position. They must have the skill, experience, and education needed to perform the new position’s essential functions--with or without reasonable accommodations.

If you need help filing a reasonable accommodation, our federal employment law attorneys are here to assist you. Contact us today at (202) 759-7780 to schedule a consultation.

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