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Federal Disability Retirement: What types of accommodation should the Agency consider before certifying my application to OPM?

Federal Disability Retirement: What types of accommodation should the Agency consider before certifying my application to OPM?

One of the requirements of a postal worker or federal employees federal disability retirement application is the supervisor statement. In the supervisor statement, the federal employee’s supervisor certifies a number of things. One of things that the federal employee supervisor certifies in the application for federal disability retirement is that the employing federal agency is unable to accommodate the employee.

The question is often asked – how far does the Agency have to go in attempting to accommodate the Federal employee or postal worker who has applied for federal disability retirement?

The accommodation required of the Agency is the same consideration owed to an individual seeking accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Generally speaking there are three (3) types of accommodations and one accommodation of last resort.

1) Category 1 – Adjustments to the work schedule. Certain disabling conditions can be accommodated by adjustments to the hours of work. For example, certain types of migraine conditions lend themselves to migraines early in the day, or vice versa. When this is the case, if the Agency shifts the employee’s hours of work to a time that the migraines won’t interfere, then the employee can be accommodated. Other schedule accommodations include use of employee contributed leave, admin leave, LWOP or advance leave to fill out a complete workday.

2) Category 2 – Adjustments to the work environment. This category of accommodation consists of modifications to the workplace or environment to enable the employee to continue to work despite a medical condition. For example, a building can be adjusted to make the doors wide enough for a wheelchair (this may be required under other Titles of the Americans With Disabilities Act). The employee can be given voice-activation software so he/she can be able to use a computer without hands. There are too many types of these accommodations to list here, but employees often overlook them because their manager will say “the budget is tight”. The ADA expects much of large employers, and large employers (especially the Federal Government) have a very difficult time making arguments that even expensive or costly accommodations were not possible.

3) Category 3 – Adjustments to the work duties. Lastly, the employer is required to modify marginal or non-essential job functions to remove the barrier that your disability presents. For example, let’s say your work duties require you maintain a workgroup’s calendar, and that maintaining that calendar is not an essential function (i.e., the reason your job exists). Let’s also say that you have an attention deficit disorder. The Agency is required to either assign that job to someone else (reallocate tasks) or give you the tools (i.e, have a coworker help you, weekly reminders, etc) to perform that marginal or non-essential tasks.

4) Accommodations of last resort. If none of the above accommodations are feasible, then the Agency must consider the “accommodation of last resort”. This type of accommodation is reassignment to a vacant position which the federal employee or postal worker is qualified for, and within a reasonable geographic area. The Agency is not required to create a job, but likewise they can’t create a whole job out of “light duty” or temporary tasks (the postal service is infamous for this – case in point, the Lobby Director position). The reassignment can be to a position with lower – even substantially lower – pay, because (at least in theory) the ADA is not concerned with ensuring you keep the same level of pay, but that the barriers to the workplace for disabled employees are removed.

If none of the above accommodations is feasible, then the supervisor can certify that he/she has attempted to accommodate you and that an accommodation is not possible in support of an application for federal disability retirement.

No post on this website is legal advice, is meant to be legal advice, and certainly does not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Information is power, and we are providing this information to give you, the federal employee, with some power. This information is not widely or easily accessible to Federal Employees.

The Law Office of Eric Pines represents Federal employees under FERS or CSRSin their applications for federal disability retirement to OPM. If an application for federal disability retirement is denied, the Firm represents Federal employees under both FERS and CSRS in their MSPB appeals of denials of federal disability retirement applications by OPM.

It is best to consult with a lawyer familiar with Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and federal disability retirement appeals to discuss the facts and law of your particular case. If you have questions about federal disability retirement under FERS or CSRS, or OPM’s denial of your applications for federal disability retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, contact an MSPB attorney or a Federal Disability Retirement Lawyer at the Law Office of Eric Pines to schedule a telephone consultation.