Part VI – Reasonable Accommodation and its Interplay with OPM Disability The Rehabilitation Act/ ADA
Does the Federal Government Consider Me Disabled? As stated in previous posts, if you are disabled under the Rehabilitation Act (ADA) and you require a reasonable accommodation, the agency must provide you with that reasonable accommodation unless they can show that there is another less expensive effective accommodation, or they can show that accommodating you would be an “undue hardship” on the agency.
Our firm often gets federal employees who are suffering from a physical or mental disability and are trying to determine if they can continue to work. The question then becomes, “Can the employee’s agency provide the employee with an effective reasonable accommodation?” - Which in plain language means, “Can the agency provide the employee with a change in work environment that would allow her to do the essential functions (actions) of her position?” If the answer to this question is “No,” then the next logical step may be the application for OPM disability-retirement benefits.
For example, an employee who has severe back issues may request to work at home 3 days a week. If the agency can prove that working at home 3 days a week is an undue hardship, and if the employee is no longer able to physically make it into work on a regular basis, then the agency may be forced to remove that employee. At this point, it would be most advantageous for the employee to hire an attorney to assist her with (a) the request for reasonable accommodation, (b) the disability application process, or both (a) and (b). There are many nuances in the laws and regulations that govern requests for reasonable accommodation and disability retirement, and it can be helpful, and sometimes even crucial, to hire an experienced attorney to assist you with the process. It can be the difference between living solely on unemployment with no medical insurance or receiving 60% of your pay (for the 1st year, and 40% thereafter) with full medical insurance paid by the federal government.
If you are a federal employee, you believe you are disabled, you want to find out if you are disabled, or if you have a need for a reasonable accommodation and want to find out whether your agency is obligated to provide you one; or if you are considering applying for OPM disability retirement, we would be happy to speak with you and help you navigate the maze of federal laws and regulations. Please contact the Law Offices of Eric L. Pines, PLLC.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Eric L. Pines, Esq.
The Law Offices of Eric L. Pines, PLLC provides comprehensive legal representation with a sole focus on Federal Employees, Federal Labor Unions and Federal Agencies. The firm holds a client first philosophy and strives to reach a resolution that benefits the client for the long term. Mr. Pines regularly represents Federal Employees from the V.A., SSA, HUD, HHS and all branches of the military.
Specializing in analysis, training, litigation, and mediation, Mr. Pines focuses on EEO, labor arbitration, MSPB, FLSA (Overtime) and OPM Disability, Disability Discrimination (Rehabilitation Act) for both CSRS and FERS employees. Over the past 16 years he has successfully litigated or settled over 90 EEO and labor arbitrations. Mr. Pines has the passion and expertise to represent disabled federal employees in pursuing violations of the Rehabilitation Act (ADA) and violations of collective bargaining agreements.
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.