Living with arthritis can present significant challenges in the workplace, impacting mobility, dexterity, and endurance. However, requesting reasonable accommodations adds another challenge for federal employees. 

The good news is that you have rights under federal law. You may be eligible for reasonable accommodations to ensure that your work environment supports your well-being and productivity. Below, our experienced federal reasonable accommodation lawyers discuss your rights, how to request reasonable accommodations, and what to do if your employer denies your request. 

For assistance, please contact us online or call (800) 801-0598 today.

Federal Laws Protecting Your Right to Accommodation

Federal agencies must provide reasonable accommodations for qualified workers with disabilities under three federal laws.

  • The Rehabilitation Act of 1973. This Act prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in federal programs and activities, including employment. It mandates reasonable accommodations to ensure equal opportunity for qualified individuals with disabilities.
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This Act is aimed primarily at private employers, but it applies to federal agencies, too. It defines disability broadly, potentially encompassing various forms of arthritis depending on the impact of the illness on the employee’s job performance. 
  • The Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). These amendments expanded coverage under the ADA, making it easier to establish a disability and ensuring those with conditions like arthritis benefit from ADA protections. The ADAAA states that measures taken to mitigate disabilities, such as medication or assistive devices, should not be factored in when determining if someone has a disability. 

However, these laws do not require federal employers to provide reasonable accommodations if doing so would cause an “undue hardship” to the employer.

What Is an Undue Hardship?

Undue hardship is a significant difficulty or expense related to providing a workplace accommodation. In simpler terms, if an accommodation is too challenging or costly for an employer to implement, given their resources and circumstances, it might be considered an undue hardship. Undue hardship is an exception to the requirement that employers provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities.

Is Arthritis a Disability Under the ADA?

The answer depends on the severity and limitations imposed by your condition. If your arthritis significantly limits major life activities, it might qualify as a disability under the law. Consulting with a lawyer experienced in federal employment disability law can provide a clearer picture.

Requesting Accommodations and Proving Your Case

When requesting reasonable accommodations for arthritis in the federal workplace, employees should follow established procedures within their respective agencies. The key to securing reasonable accommodations lies in effective communication and documentation. 

It typically involves the following steps.

  • Gathering documentation of a condition or disability. Obtain a diagnosis from a qualified healthcare professional outlining your arthritis, its limitations, and its impact on your work performance. This documentation becomes critical evidence supporting your request. 
  • Request accommodations. Submit a formal request for accommodations to the appropriate office within the agency, typically the Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office or the Human Resources Department.
  • Participate in the interactive process. Engage in an open and collaborative dialogue with your agency to determine which accommodations are tailored to your needs and job requirements. Clearly explain your limitations, propose specific helpful accommodations, and be open to discussing alternative solutions if needed.

Remember, timing is key. Request accommodations early and proactively before your condition significantly impacts your work performance.

What to Do If Your Request Is Denied

If your initial request for accommodation is denied, don’t be discouraged. Depending on the specific circumstances, you can appeal the decision through internal agency channels or external complaint mechanisms. Consult with your agency’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) office or an attorney specializing in federal employee law. Working with an experienced attorney can help you prepare for the appeal process and improve your chances of success.

Examples of Workplace Accommodations for Arthritis

Federal agencies must explore various accommodations that can help employees with arthritis perform their job duties effectively. 

Some examples of workplace accommodations for arthritis include:

  • Providing ergonomic office equipment such as adjustable desks, chairs, and keyboards to reduce strain on joints;
  • Allowing for flexible work schedules or telecommuting options to accommodate medical appointments or manage symptoms;
  • Modifying job tasks or reassigning non-essential duties that exacerbate arthritis symptoms; and
  • Offering assistive technology and software to aid in typing, reading, or accessing digital documents, like voice-activated software for typing.

Your specific accommodations will be unique to your situation and job requirements. Working collaboratively with your doctor, supervisor, and the agency’s disability program coordinator can help you identify the most effective solutions.

Could Working from Home Be a Valid Accommodation?

Working from home can significantly reduce the pain and fatigue associated with arthritis while enabling you to fulfill your job duties effectively. The federal government has embraced remote working or telework for decades and has put a robust system into place. However, your ability to telework depends on your job’s nature and essential functions. The key is demonstrating how remote work would enable you to perform your essential job functions without undue hardship on your agency. 

How Can a Federal Employment Law Attorney Help with Your Arthritis Accommodation Request Or Denial?

Federal employment attorneys can be of great assistance when it comes to handling requests, appealing denials, and proposing alternative accommodations by: 

  • Providing legal advice regarding your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Rehabilitation Act;
  • Helping you negotiate with your employer to meet your needs; 
  • Assisting you in filing a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) if your employer refuses to accommodate you; and 
  • Acting as your advocate to help you secure the necessary accommodations.

Requesting a reasonable accommodation is your right as a federal employee. If you believe your employer has violated your rights, one of our knowledgeable lawyers can help assess your case. 

Need Help Navigating the Reasonable Accommodation Process?

Living with arthritis shouldn’t hinder your federal career. At Pines Federal, we have over 60 years of combined experience in federal employment law and specialize in fighting wrongful termination and disability discrimination.

Our team understands the unique challenges faced by federal employees with arthritis. We have a reputation for being trusted and committed advocates dedicated to helping you secure the accommodations you deserve. Reach us online or call (800) 801-0598 today for a consultation.