Employee performance, attendance or conduct issues that may merit disciplinary action might be rooted in “medical conditions or what the agency might suspect are medical conditions,” the MSPB has said.
“The decision to remove an employee can be difficult, especially if it seems the employee bears no fault and a disease or injury is responsible. Therefore, it is important for agency officials to understand that not only can they still help the employee, it might very well be their obligation,” says a recent MSPB publication.
It said, for example, that making a workplace accommodation “can enable an employee to fully meet the conduct and performance standards expected of employees” but if such steps do not produce that result, “a removal action may be necessary. However, that might not be the end of the agency’s obligations.”
If the agency believes a medical condition underlies the basis for a firing, the agency must advise the employee in writing of his or her possible eligibility for disability retirement and of the time limit for filing, it said. Further, if employees are unable to file personally and are unable to arrange for someone else to file for them, the agency must file an application for disability retirement on their behalf, it said.
If the agency lacks medical documentation to show that a disease or injury was responsible for the unacceptable performance, attendance or conduct, it said, it should place a statement in the official personnel file “that describes what efforts the agency made to obtain that documentation and why the agency believed that the disability application would have been appropriate.”
“This statement is important, because the employee or someone acting on their behalf can still file within the year following the separation (or later if limited conditions are met) and supply the medical documentation then,” the MSPB said.