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Why light duty might not always be a reasonable accommodation for federal disability purposes.

Why light duty might not always be a reasonable accommodation for federal disability purposes.

To be eligible for disability retirement under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), your agency must certify that it has been unable to accommodate your disabling medical condition in your present position and has considered you for vacant positions within the same area at the same grade level.

I often see instances in which an agency will seek to modify an employee’s position or duties which falls short of being an accommodation.

If your employer offers you light duty, limited duty or an informal arrangement such as a makeshift position, you should be aware this is not reasonable accommodation under the law that enables the performance of the “duties” of the position.

For federal disability purposes under CSRS or FERS, an accommodation is a “reasonable adjustment” made to the employee’s job or workplace.

You must be able to perform your official position, as opposed to a reduced one associated with lighter duties. This could include changes to your schedule as long as you are doing the same duties or new equipment that will make it easier for you to do your job.

Ad hoc duties or reassignments such as being transferred to the lobby to man phones, when your job is that of a driver, for example, does not constitute a reasonable accommodation.

In some agencies applying for light duties could erode your rights, PostalWorker.com reported.

The postal commissioners have recognized permanently ill or injured employees risk losing certain rights when they apply for Light Duty under Article 13.

“Too frequently, once the employee submits a request for permanent Light Duty, they find that they are subjected to removal action for failure to perform the essential functions of their position,” stated PostalWorker.com

Recently the media reported on how at least 20 workers in the Milwaukee Post Office were laid off after requesting light duty because of various disabilities. The letters sent to works said there was “no productive work available within your restrictions.”

If you are in doubt you should consult an experienced federal disability discrimination employment attorney to first determine whether the permanent illness or injury constitutes a “disability” under the Rehabilitation Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Recent changes in Federal Law (ADAAA) have made it much easier for Federal Employees to qualify as disabled under the Rehabilitation Act which is the Federal equivalent of the ADA.