Reasonable accommodation is a vital resource for federal employees with a disability. And yet, it is far from being a straightforward area of law.
Because of that complexity, it’s easy for unsavory federal employers to abuse their employees’ rights through jargon and misdirection.
Alternatively, inept or misguided HR offices provide misleading and false information to employees with disabilities. Either scenario can lead to unfair treatment, discrimination, demotion, and removal.
The best way to prevent these outcomes is to educate yourself about reasonable accommodation for federal employees. We’ve written this brief article to help you on that journey.
We’ll touch on the legal definition of reasonable accommodation and provide several examples.
What Is Considered a Reasonable Accommodation?
“Reasonable accommodation” is central to federal employment and the broader employment landscape.
The EEOC’s definition is any modification or adjustment to a job or the work environment that enables a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to participate in the application process or to perform essential job functions.
Some basic tenets of reasonable accommodation include:
- Equal opportunity is the foundation. The core idea behind reasonable accommodation is ensuring employees with disabilities have equal employment opportunities. It’s not about granting special privileges but instead leveling the playing field.
- There’s no “one-size-fits-all” accommodation. What’s reasonable for one person might not be for another. Agencies and individuals work to tailor an accommodation to the individual’s specific needs and the nature of their job.
- Limitations exist. While employers should sincerely try to accommodate, they aren’t required to do so if it causes “undue hardship.” Considering the employer’s resources and circumstances, an undue hardship is a significant difficulty or expense.
- Accommodations can be creative. Adjustments can vary widely. They include altering a workspace for wheelchair access, providing specific tools like screen-reading software, or offering a flexible work schedule.
- It’s vital to engage in an interactive process. Ideally, the employer and the employee collaborate to determine the best and most reasonable accommodation. Open and consistent dialogue is critical.
- Reasonable accommodation is the law. The right to reasonable accommodation comes primarily from the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act. These laws safeguard employees from disability discrimination and require employers to provide accommodations.
In essence, reasonable accommodation ensures everyone, regardless of physical or mental limitations, has a fair shot at succeeding in the workplace.
Reasonable Accommodation Examples
As mentioned before, reasonable accommodation is a workplace adjustment that helps employees with disabilities perform their jobs.
Here are some examples to shed light on the concept:
- Physical workspace modifications. This could be as simple as rearranging office furniture for easier accessibility. It could also encompass installing ramps for wheelchair-bound employees.
- Special equipment. Examples of this category include providing screen reading software for visually impaired workers. Another classic example is providing amplified headsets for those with hearing difficulties.
- Flexible scheduling. Some disabilities might require periodic medical appointments or occasional breaks. Allowing flexible work hours or granting periodic breaks can help accommodate those with this need.
- Job restructuring. Altering minor job duties by redistributing non-essential tasks can solve certain situations.
- Remote work. Sometimes, the best accommodation might be allowing the employee to work from home or another remote location. Remote work can be a good fit for employees with unique allergies or severe anxiety.
- Modified training materials. Providing training manuals in braille or offering video materials with closed captioning are methods to help those with specific impairments.
- Interpreters or Assistants. Providing an interpreter can be the key to effective job performance for employees with severe hearing or communication challenges.
Finally, employers can consider transferring an employee to a similar position with duties that fit the employee’s limitations.
We Can Help You Obtain the Accommodation You Need
Hopefully, you now have a general understanding of reasonable accommodation for federal employees and the underlying principles.
That said, it can still be difficult and overwhelming to seek reasonable accommodation from your employer.
Once you initiate a reasonable accommodation request, there are additional hurdles to overcome and dangers to avoid. Consequently, it’s prudent to enlist an attorney for assistance.
The Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, focuses exclusively on representing public servants in federal employment cases.
Thanks to decades of practice, we can help you obtain the results you need. In addition, we prioritize giving our clients outstanding customer service. We want you to feel like a person, not a number.
Together, we can help you obtain the accommodation you need to succeed. Just reach out to us to set up a free initial consultation.