Federal Sector: Providing Reasonable Accommodations for Commuting Restrictions
The federal government is charged with being a model employer for individuals with disabilities. This article discusses the obligation of federal government agencies to provide reasonable accommodations for limitations in commuting to the workplace faced by qualified individuals with disabilities.
Reasonable Accommodations GenerallyUnder the Rehabilitation Act, federal government agencies must provide reasonable accommodations to a qualified applicant or employee to allow the applicant/employee to perform the essential functions of the position he or she holds or desires. An agency is alleviated of its obligation to provide reasonable accommodations if the only effective accommodations would pose an undue hardship, meaning significant difficulty or expense, to the agency.
Agencies Must Accommodate Commuting Restrictions Unless Doing So Would Pose An Undue HardshipThe Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC or Commission) recently reaffirmed that an agency is required to accommodate an employee's disability where the disability restricts the employee's ability to commute to his or her assigned duty location. See Complainant v. Dep't of Housing & Urban Develop., EEOC App. No. 0720130029 (Feb. 12, 2015). As the Commission explained in Complainant v. National Science Foundation, EEOC App. No. 0120121886 (Dec. 11, 2013), an agency's obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation includes "an obligation to modify policies concerning where work is performed, including approving working from home, if such a change is needed as a reasonable accommodation, would be effective and would not cause an undue hardship[.]" For example, in Lianides v. Department of the Agriculture, EEOC App. No. 0120060164 (Jan. 25, 2008), the EEOC held that "the fact that complainant's disability affects his commute does not absolve the agency of its responsibilities simply because the bus is not 'part of the work environment' as the agency contends." As a result, the EEOC held that the employee raised a claim of failure to accommodate when the agency denied his request to telecommute two days a week. Additionally, in Philippe v. Social Security Administration, EEOC App. No. 01A12653 (May 15, 2003), the Commission held that the agency failed to accommodate an employee where she requested a transfer in duty station to limit her driving and the deciding official on her request "stated that he viewed complainant's request as a transportation issue, which was not the basis for granting accommodation[.]"
Agencies Are Not Required To Accommodate Commuting Restrictions If It Would Pose An Undue HardshipThere are limitations on an agency's obligation to accommodate an employee where he or she requests an accommodation for his or her inability to commute to the workplace. For example, in Complainant v. Department of Veterans Affairs, EEOC App. No. 0120130776 (Nov. 10, 2015), the Commission held that the appellant's request that the agency provide him with an accommodation in the form of a driver two days a week was unreasonable on its face. Therefore, the Commission held that the Agency properly denied the employee's request for reasonable accommodation related to his commuting restrictions.
ConclusionFederal government applicants and employees who are qualified individuals with disabilities should be aware that they are entitled to accommodations related to restrictions on commuting to the workplace. A firm experienced in representing federal government employees in federal sector discrimination complaints, such as the Wick Law Office, can help an employee navigate the reasonable accommodation and EEO processes.
The document does not constitute legal advice. It is offered only for general informational and educational purposes. This information is not intended to create, and does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship with the recipient.