| Read Time: 5 minutes | Federal Employee Rights

All federal agencies are required by law to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified employees with disabilities. If you are a disabled federal employee with mental or physical disabilities and require reasonable accommodations in the workplace, you need to be well informed about your rights. Our national federal employment law attorneys explain everything you need to know about federal reasonable accommodations.

If you need legal guidance through this process, our team at Pines Federal is here to help you. With over 60 years of collective experience, our federal employee attorneys possess a comprehensive understanding of state and federal laws to help you navigate through any legal complexities related to your case.

Contact our federal employment law attorneys today at (888) 898-9902 to schedule a consultation!

What Is Reasonable Accommodation?

Reasonable accommodations allow a person with disabilities to perform their job by having the employer make accommodations to either the hiring process, the job, the way the job is done, or the work environment. Accommodations are considered reasonable if they don’t create a direct threat or hardship to any other workers. To qualify for a reasonable accommodation, the worker must have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.

How Do I Request a Reasonable Accommodation?

If you want to request an accommodation, you or your attorney must let your employer know that you need an adjustment at work due to a medical condition. The request must explain why you are having trouble performing work due to a physical or mental disability. For example, if you use a wheelchair and it doesn’t fit under your desk, you can request your employer to make the needed adjustments to solve this issue. If you need to request four weeks off for a back-problem treatment, this would also be considered a reasonable accommodation. Your reasonable accommodation request can be verbal and doesn’t need to be in writing.

Once your employer receives your request for reasonable accommodation, they may ask you relevant questions that will enable them to make informed decisions about your request. In some cases, an employer may ask you for written documentation that explains the details of your reasonable accommodation request.

What Are Common Types of Reasonable Accommodation Requests?

Reasonable accommodations can be requested in a variety of forms. Below are the most common types of accommodations federal employers made after a request has been submitted:

  • Job restructuring: Federal disabled employees can request job restructuring as a reasonable accommodation. This may include reallocating or redistributing marginal job functions that an employee is unable to perform because of a disability. An employer can also adjust how or when a function is performed.
  • Leave: Employers can also permit the use of accrued paid leave or unpaid leave when needed by a federal employee’s disability. Employers should allow an employee with a disability to exhaust accrued paid leave first and then provide unpaid leave.
  • Modified or Part-Time Schedule: A modified schedule may involve adjusting arrival or departure times, providing periodic breaks, altering when certain functions are performed, even if it does not provide such schedules for other employees.
  • Modified workspace: It is a reasonable accommodation to modify a workplace when requested by an individual’s disability-related limitations.
  • Reassignment: A federal employee can request reassignment to a vacant position as a form of reasonable accommodation. This type of reasonable accommodation must be provided for an employee who can no longer perform the essential functions of their current position due to their disability.

Which Employers Are Covered by the ADA?

The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) protects employers from unlawful disability discrimination in the workplace. To receive protection from the ADA. you must be able to perform the primary work functions with or without reasonable accommodation. This means that your employer must believe that you have the qualifications needed to fill the job role, such as education, work experience, skills, or professional licenses. If you fulfill these requirements, an employer cannot refuse to hire you because of your disability.

The ADA extends this protection to employees from a wide variety of work sectors, including:

  • private employers,
  • state and local governments,
  • employment agencies,
  • labor organizations,
  • and labor-management committees.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and the ADA enforce employment discrimination laws to all government employers, regardless of the employees they had after January 26, 1992.

What Is Considered a “Disability” According to the EEOC?

The ADA protects all disabled workers from discrimination based on their disability. The ADA qualifies a disability as having a “physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.” The ADA also protects employers with a history of disability or employees who face disability discrimination from their employer, even if they aren’t disabled.

A substantial impairment is one that significantly limits or restricts a major life activity, such as:

  • Hearing
  • Seeing
  • Speaking
  • Walking
  • Breathing
  • Performing manual tasks
  • Caring for oneself
  • Learning or working

What Do I Do If I am Being Discriminated Against?

If you think you are facing disability discrimination in the workplace, you can file a claim against your employer. If you want to file a claim, you must submit a charge to the EEOC within 18 days of the alleged discrimination. You will also have up to 300 days to file a charge to any state or local laws that also extend protection for disability discrimination cases.

To protect your rights, it is best to contact an experienced federal employment law attorney to help you submit your EEOC charge. Disability discrimination cases can be complex, especially when dealing with federal employers. For such reasons, it is vital to have an experienced attorney on your side who can guide you through the process. For legal assistance, contact Pines Federal today.

Will Filing a Claim Help Me?

Employees who have been discriminated against based on disability are entitled to compensation. You can seek remedy to recover the position you would have been in if the discrimination never occurred. For example, many employees are denied jobs, promotions, reasonable accommodations, reassignments, and salary increases for discriminatory reasons. Filing a claim could help you regain what you were entitled to. Filing a claim may also help you cover attorney fees.

Can My Employer Ask Questions About My Disability?

If you are applying for a job, an employer doesn’t have legal grounds to ask you if you are disabled. Employers are also prohibited from asking you details about the nature or severity of your disability. An employer is only allowed to ask you if you can perform the job duties with or without reasonable accommodation. You may be required to explain what you will need to perform the job duties during an interview. But it is important to know that an employer cannot refuse to hire you because of your disability if you can perform the essential functions of the job with accommodation.

If you are already a federal employee, your employer cannot ask you questions about your disability unless they are related to your job. If your employer has been asking you questions about your disability for discriminatory reasons, you can file a claim against them.

If you need guidance requesting a reasonable accommodation or your employer hasn’t been willing to make reasonable accommodations, or national federal employment law attorneys are here to help you. Contact our team today at (888) 898-9902 to schedule a consultation!

Author Photo

Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative.

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