Agencies can’t Force an Employee to take Leave instead of Providing an Effective Accommodation.

The EEOC has held on numerous occasions that telework, even 100% telework, is a reasonable accommodation. Forcing an employee to take leave is not a reasonable accommodation unless there is no other effective accommodation such as teleworking.

The following comes from a recent decision from the EEOC affirming that forcing employees to take leave is not a reasonable accommodation: 

[Complainant’s] previous supervisor permitted him to work from home on inclement weather days. In addition, Complainant testified that he told [his supervisor] how the inclement weather made it prohibitively difficult to commute to work. According to Complainant, [his supervisor], nevertheless, denied his request and forced him to take accrued leave instead. . . .

. . . the Agency argues that it accommodated Complainant by permitting him the use of his accrued leave on the dates at issue. While an employer may choose between effective accommodation, forcing an employee to take leave when another accommodation would permit an employee to continue working is not an effective accommodation. [ ] In this case, the Agency failed to provide Complainant with the effective accommodation that would have allowed him to continue working. Accordingly, we agree that permitting Complainant the option of using accumulated leave instead of the option of teleworking during inclement weather was not an effective accommodation.

Jody L. v. Department of Defense, Department of the Air Force, EEOC Appeal No. 0120151351 (January 17, 2018).

It is important for employees to understand that they should not have to pay with their accrued sick leave for an agency’s unwillingness to consider obvious and effective reasonable accommodations.