The Rehabilitation Act requires federal agencies to provide reasonable accommodations for individuals with physical or mental illnesses or injuries that substantially affect a major life activity. Reasonable accommodations can take several forms and typically depend upon the duties of your job and your medical condition.
For example, reasonable accommodations includes, among other things, transferring to another office, restructuring job duties, providing a larger computer monitor, or providing a larger cubicle to make room for a wheelchair. The accommodation must be “reasonable,” however. It isn’t considered reasonable if it creates an “undue hardship” on the agency. How do you request reasonable accommodation” You’ll usually need to request it from your supervisor, and it should always be done in writing. Generally, once you request reasonable accommodation, you will be required to provide medical documentation concerning your medical condition and the recommended accommodations.
The Rehabilitation Act and the regulations issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to carry out its provisions require that this process to be an “interactive” one. This means that the agency is supposed to engage in a discussion with you as to ways it can attempt to accommodate your medical condition.
If the agency does not respond to your request for accommodation within a reasonable period, you should consider its failure to respond as a denial of your request. At that point you can contact an EEO counselor at your agency to initiate a discrimination complaint. However, if the agency does actually respond to your request and denies it, you will then have 45 calendar days from the date the agency denied your request to initiate EEO counseling. Note: This is a very important deadline.
Finally, if the agency does engage in a dialogue with you as to accommodating your medical condition and in your opinion it still fails to provide reasonable accommodations, you should then contact an EEO counselor. Remember, in general, you have 45 calendar days from the date of the alleged discriminatory event to contact an EEO counselor.
(Federal Legal Corner is brought to you by the attorneys of Passman & Kaplan, a law firm specializing in federal civil service law, including sexual harassment, discrimination, security clearances, grievances, unfair labor practices, wrongful discharge, employment contracts and employee benefits. For more information about Passman & Kaplan, visit http://www.passmanandkaplan.com.)