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The V.A. Wrongly Denied Reasonable Accommodation Request for Service Chief to Telework

The V.A. Wrongly Denied Reasonable Accommodation Request for Service Chief to Telework

Teleworking, otherwise referred to as working from home, is an option that’s available to federal employees who may be seeking a reasonable accommodation. There are many nuances related to a request to work at home, in fact a recent case made it clear an agency cannot reject a request for telework as a reasonable accommodation on the grounds that it’s not generally available to nondisabled employees.

This teleworking issue was raised by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the case of Blocher v. Department of Veterans Affairs, in April 2013.

In this case, a chief of health information management service requested telework as a reasonable accommodation because she was recovering from hip replacement surgery and it was easier for her to work from home.

The V.A. has a reasonable accommodation committee who meet to discuss and decide on reasonable accommodation requests. The committee denied her request because her supervisor stated that he did not believe her position as a service chief should qualify as this position was responsible for supervising workers, which needs to be done in an office setting.

The Complainant then filed a formal EEO complaint. She alleged the Department of Veterans Affairs discriminated against her because she had a disability (hip dysplasia) at the time when an agency denied her request for a reasonable accommodation.

The agency found the chief was not a qualified individual with a disability. Additionally, it said face-to-face supervision of her subordinates was an essential component of her supervisory position, and her inability to physically come to work and interact with subordinates meant she was unqualified for the position.

On appeal, the EEOC found that the agency subjected her to discrimination when it denied her request for telework as a reasonable accommodation. The EEOC found that the chief was a “qualified individual with a disability.”

The EEOC took issue with the view of the chief’s supervisor that he did not believe any service chief should work from home under any circumstances. It pointed out an agency should not base its decision regarding a request for reasonable accommodation solely on the issue of whether the employee’s essential job “involves some contact and coordination with other employees.”

The EEOC pointed out it is a reasonable accommodation to modify a workplace policy. It said the reasonable accommodation committee and the supervisor had an obligation to take part in an interactive process to determine whether the chief had made a reasonable request. In this case neither complied with the obligation.

The agency also failed to demonstrate that giving the chief some telework on a temporary basis as an accommodation as she recovered from surgery would have posed an undue hardship. It concluded telework should be evaluated as a reasonable accommodation on a case-by-case basis.

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The Law Offices of Eric L. Pines represents US Federal Employees before the EEOC, MSPB, FLRA, OSC and Union Grievances as well as assisting them with obtaining their disability benefits claims from OPM and the MSPB. The Law Offices of Eric L. Pines, Esq. represents federal employees nationwide and wherever else they may be stationed.

Mr. Pines has a unique and special interest in assisting disabled federal employees in obtaining reasonable accommodations, freedom from discriminatory treatment and OPM Disability Benefits if necessary. Mr. Pines and his firm have experience drafting over 70 EEO Final Agency Decisions as well as representing 100’s of employees in navigating the EEO Reasonable Accommodation and OPM Disability landscape.

If you are a Federal Employee or former Federal Employee we believe it is very important that you consider hiring an attorney with specific experience handling such claims in the federal employee landscape. The federal legal system is unique and unlike any other legal system as it has many procedural and legal differences from non-federal employment law. The time and money it takes to hire an attorney who does not have federal sector experience and have them get up to speed in the federal sector legal environment can often waste valuable time and financial resources for the unknowing federal employee. It is often a much better value and much less frustrating to hire someone who solely practices in the federal employee labor and employment field. Attorney Eric L. Pines has practiced solely in the federal employee field for over 17 years. For a review of recent successful case decisions please see the following link.

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The information presented on this website is a general description of law and processes; each case is different, and there may be approaches listed here that are not accurate or applicable to your case.

It is very important that the Law Offices of Eric L. Pines, PLLC notes that each and every Federal Employee’s claim is different. Just because the Law Offices of Eric L. Pines, PLLC was able to secure substantial past-due benefits for one Federal Employee does not mean or imply that we will be able to do so for you. In some cases, the Law Offices of Eric L. Pines, PLLC may not be able to secure any financial compensation or past-due benefits due to the facts or law of your particular case.