Fedweek Legal

Conditions Under the Rehabilitation Act

If you have a physical or mental medical condition that is temporary, the Agency still may have an obligation to provide you reasonable accommodation under the Rehabilitation Act. The EEOC recently reiterated its position in Vacchiano v. USPS, Appeal Nos. 07A10042 and 01A12188, 2003, that as a “matter of law” an impairment need not be permanent in order to substantially limit a major life activity and thus constitute a disability under the Act. The EEOC’s position is set forth in more detail in its Enforcement Guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act and Psychiatric Disabilities.


The Rehabilitation Act requires that Agencies must provide reasonable accommodation to qualified employees or applicants with disabilities unless the accommodation would create an undue hardship on the operation of the agency. An individual with a disability, for the purposes of accommodation, is an individual with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individuals. Major life activities can include, but are not limited to: caring for oneself, sleeping, eating, walking, standing, lifting, thinking, concentrating, and other cognitive functions. However, working is now generally not sufficient, and an employee must prove that he or she is also limited in other daily activities, according to the U.S. Supreme Court. Furthermore, it is not sufficient for the disability to affect only a single, particular job or a job under one particular supervisor, but must prevent the employee from performing a class or range of jobs. In addition, mitigating measures, such as medication, a prosthesis or a hearing aid, must be taken into consideration: if a person with a physical or mental impairment has little or no difficulty performing a major life activity when using a mitigating measure, that person is unlikely to meet the definition of person with a disability under the law.

The Agency may ask for appropriate medical documentation to support that you have a medical conditions that requires accommodation. If the condition is not permanent, the medical documentation should make clear that the impairment will substantially limit one or more of your major life activities for more than several months. In addition, if the condition may be long-term, or potentially long-term, the documentation should reflect that the duration is indefinite and unknowable, or is expected to last at least several months. Such conditions, if severe enough, may constitute disabilities. The medical information you provide may only be shared with agency employees involved in determining whether to grant the accommodation.

There are strict limitations on further disclosure. If an agency denies a request for reasonable accommodation, it must inform you in writing of the denial and the reasons for it. You then have the right to file an EEO complaint and/or to engage in an informal dispute resolution procedures, if the agency has one.

** This information is provided by the attorneys at

Passman & Kaplan, P.C., a law firm dedicated to the

representation of federal employees worldwide. For more

information on Passman & Kaplan, P.C., go to

http://www.passmanandkaplan.com. **