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What’s So Unreasonable?
By Ivan D. Butts
NAPS Executive Vice President
From time to time, we hear from members about issues concerning the denial of rights afforded to all (well, mostly all) employees under the federal guidelines of the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as they apply to reasonable accommodations.
What is so unreasonable about leadership following federal law? Why do some leaders feel obligated to violate the rights of EAS employees who are eligible for protections under various federal laws? Are they saying that being held to a “higher standard” means your rights under federal law can be blatantly violated?
The ADA lists the following types of accommodations as generally considered reasonable:
Of course, it’s up to the employee to provide the necessary medical documentation to support such accommodations. But provided to whom? While there is legitimate concern regarding giving medical information to a supervisor or manager, the ADA offers clear guidance on the issue. Can an employer ask an individual for documentation when the individual requests reasonable accommodation?
Yes. When the disability and/or the need for accommodation is not obvious, the employer may ask the individual for “reasonable” documentation about their disability and functional limitations. The employer is entitled to know the individual has a covered disability for which they need reasonable accommodation.
When discussing a specific cause, a USPS manager asked me, “Why did the EAS employee—who had an obvious need for a reasonable accommodation—not request a district Reasonable Accommodations Committee meeting?” I pointed out to him that Handbook EL 307, Section 212, Requesting an Accommodation, reads:
“The Postal Service activates the reasonable accommodation process whenever the following occurs:
In this case, OIG documentation noted that witnesses gave statements that calls were made to management concerning the obvious needs of the employee.
We also receive regular calls from EAS employees stating USPS leaders are changing documented requests for leave qualified for protection under the FMLA from a designated leave category to leave without pay (LWOP). I find it amazing that USPS leaders would commit these violations of federal law when the USPS ELM 515.42 clearly reads:
“Absences that qualify as FMLA leave may be charged as annual leave, sick leave, continuation of pay, or leave without pay, or a combination of these. Leave is charged consistent with current leave policies and applicable collective bargaining agreements.”
I do not know if FMLA violations alleged by USPS management in either case I referenced went against the USPS or against the person claimed to have committed the violation. However, supervisors can be sued individually for violations of the FMLA. We recently saw a ruling for violations of the ADA concerning reasonable accommodation—see https://naps.org/External-Resources; go to “Other Links of Interest” and click on “Reasonable Accommodation.”
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