By Deborah J. Hopkins, February 20, 2024

When it comes to disability accommodation, there is no shortage of pitfalls to avoid. And there is one area we constantly hear about from FELTG readers, and that’s the topic of revisiting – or revoking – an employee’s existing reasonable accommodation, particularly when a new supervisor takes over.

One of the cases we discuss in detail in some of our trainings on revisiting existing accommodations (next offered as the 60-minute webinar Red Light, Green Light: Revisiting Existing Reasonable Accommodations on March 14) is Sandra A. v. Navy, EEOC App. No. 2021002131 (Sept. 16, 2021), request for recon. denied, EEOC Req. No. 2022000276 (Mar. 7, 2022).

In this case, the complainant, a technical editor, was granted an accommodation of full-time telework due to her irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). As a teleworker, she performed her job tasks successfully for several years. Working at home, according to the case, allowed the complainant to “have a low-stress environment with a consistent, regular schedule where [she] could have greater control over [her] IBS symptoms.” Id. at 3.

In the spring of 2018, a new supervisor took over and revoked all telework agreements in the complainant’s department. The complainant informed the new supervisor her telework was an accommodation for her disability and the telework revocation would require her to use leave to accommodate her medical restrictions.

The complainant renewed her formal request for telework and provided supporting medical documentation. She was denied. The agency instead granted the complainant “frequent and prolonged bathroom access as needed.” Id. at 4.

The complainant then explained if frequent and prolonged bathroom breaks were permitted, she would only be able to work 20 to 30 hours a week onsite, while she would be able to put in a full 40-hour week if she were allowed to telework.

The complainant’s medical documentation noted her condition often required an unpredictable and sudden need to use the restroom. Her “functional limitations have resulted in situations that are easy to take care of if working from home but can be difficult and misunderstood in a professional environment.” Id. at 5.

The documentation also noted that if the complainant was required to work onsite, she needed use of a private restroom. The agency instead provided access to a shared restroom.

Because her telework was revoked and she was not provided with a private restroom, the complainant was not able to come to the worksite. Because of this, she resigned approximately nine months after her telework was revoked.

Upon review of the appeal, the EEOC found the agency failed to provide a reasonable accommodation because the shared restroom was not effective. In addition, while the agency claimed the complainant’s position was not eligible for telework, the fact that the complainant had successfully worked from home for more than two years undermined the argument.

The EEOC also found the complainant’s resignation amounted to a constructive discharge because “a reasonable person in Complainant’s situation would have found the Agency’s actions intolerable.” Id. at 13.

Revisiting existing accommodations is sometimes necessary – but when an agency changes an accommodation that’s been working, it almost never ends well for anyone. [email protected]

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