WHEN MAGIC WORDS ARE NOT NEEDED
Must a federal employee specifically utter the magic words “reasonable accommodation” before an agency is responsible for considering the need for a disability-related accommodation? Here is what EEOC said recently.
“Under the Rehabilitation Act, an employee is not required to use the ‘magic’ words ‘reasonable accommodation’ when making a request. See, e.g. Otero v. United States Postal Serv., EEOC Appeal No.01A46026 (Jun. 29, 2006) (complainant’s request for advance sick leave was a request for a reasonable accommodation). Instead, the employee or the employee’s representative need only inform the Agency that they need an adjustment or change at work for a reason related to a medical condition.”
A Homeland Security employee asked if she could work at home from time-to-time when she was experiencing Fibromyalgia flare-ups. She made it clear that the flare-ups did not stop her from doing her work, but did make it dangerous to commute to work. Given the agency’s failure to immediately treat this as a request for a “reasonable accommodation” under the Rehabilitation Act– as well as some very narrow-minded thinking by a couple of upper level managers who ignored the first line supervisors wishes, the agency was found guilty of violating the law.
For details, check out Annie F., v. Mayorkas, Sec’y., DHS (CIS), EEOC No. 2022001221 (2023)