I had mentioned how I was trying to ask to work from home a couple hours each morning again as a reasonable accommodation at work. Man, it is unbelievable to me that again – it was a big fat no. The reasoning is so ridiculous and insulting; I could not believe what I was reading. Of course I am filing an appeal, not that I think it will change anything at all – but at least it will make it as big of a pain in his ass (to have to do more paperwork) as possible.
Here is part of his responses and my response to him is below. I put ME: next to my response since this page doesn't show bold text. Ya, work is fairly ugly this week, nobody is talking to anyone which always makes it extremely pleasant!
He starts it – then I responded to his comments… I think I was over the edge perhaps but man I was pissed! AS IF HE KNOWS or even has a GD clue what my medical condition substantially limits – like it is ONLY sitting, standing and lifting – unbelievable… Oh, the FOH is OUR doctor by the way. Apparently he IS an expert in all things medical – read on…
This memorandum is in response to your recent request to be allowed a Reasonable Accommodation. In this case you have asked to be allowed to work flexiplace for 2 hours in the morning while your medication has time to take effect. We understand you are dealing with a medical condition that substantially limits your ability to perform major life activities. These activities include “sitting, standing, and lifting due to increasing pain.”
The Federal Occupational Health Dept. (FOH) in their review of your request has responded that this condition may “limit the employee’s ability to sit, stand, or lift for prolonged periods of time.” They also stated that it is “medically reasonable to allow for an ergonomic desk and chair.”
MW: I do not believe the FOH doctor is a specialist in the area of nerve damage, sciatic nerve pain, or rheumatoid arthritis. Rheumatoid Arthritis causes severe joint swelling, inflammation, bone & cartilage damage, and causes severe joint pain, joints that will not bend, and numbness (such as my feet and fingers). I don’t know if you have ever experienced sciatic nerve pain. The only thing that helps it is to sit on a recliner with my feet up to take the pressure off the nerve. A bone scan with radioactive dye revealed the RA. The bone and cartilage is eroded in every joint, except my right shoulder, which was surgically repaired (the time when you did allow me to work from home for the 2 months following that surgery).
A review of the NTEU agreement shows that your occupation only qualifies you to work Situational/Hourly Flexiplace.
ME: A review of the agreement shows me that BU employees may work 80 hours of flex per month, while NBU employees (such as myself may work their entire TOD from home). I am unsure of where you got your information, but it is incorrect. Even if it weren’t, situational flexiplace allows for 80 hours per month to be worked from home.
Situational/Hourly Flexiplace is worked on a “case by case hourly or weekly basis.” The worker has to have a “project or work assignment” that can be worked away from the office “without any adverse impact on the individual or team” and “subject to the (prior) approval of their supervisor”. This means you would need to request (ahead of time) to work flexi on any given day, and then identify the specific work you would be doing.
My review of your work assignments indicates that you do not have a regular work assignment that can be worked away from the office. On occasion you write up evaluations, mid years, and briefings. At the most, this occurs only once or twice a month (many months there are no evaluations). My experience is that you are able to complete a write-up in a few hours. This work will not add up to 10 hours a week or 40 hours a month (the amount you are asking for). Reading email does not qualify as regularly assigned work because it is not measurable work, and even if allowable, it also would not fill this many hours. The other tasks that are assigned you (listed below) all require you to be in the office.
ME: Actually, I write up ALL mid-years and evaluations. I also do the monthly briefing, 3081/SETR input, corrections, and the credit card (ordering & balancing the budget). ALL of these things are done on a computer and ALL of them could be done from home. I did them all before when I was allowed to work from home after surgery and did a very good job!
Flexiplace was designed to allow employees to work outside of the office. Sick leave was designed to allow employees to convalesce at home. It appears that you are asking to use flexiplace to convalesce at home i.e., allow time for your medication to take effect. This is not an appropriate use of flexiplace.
ME: The above comment is an insult. I do NOT expect the government to pay my way while I convalesce at home! I cannot believe you would say such a thing. I am asking that my employer allow me to complete work assignments from home because it does not matter if I am in the office or sitting on top of a building, as long as I have a computer to type on. If I were expecting the government to pay for me to sit at home, your right – that would be ridiculous. That is NOT what I asked for and I am insulted that you would think that of me. I am a good employee who has given 33+ years, (the last 12 of which to this organization)! I was here early, working late, and did everything to set this group up originally, from workspaces and computers to copy machines, filing systems, etc. Now that I have a medical issue and am asking for a little help to be able to continue to be successful – I am not worth the trouble or the time – you don’t even “hear” what I am asking for.
Accordingly, the Service is not able to grant your request to work flexiplace.
The Service has:
Provided you an ergonomic desk and chair, you rejected the chair because it did not provide relief. I have also noted that you do not use the ergonomic capabilities of your desk.
ME: I did NOT reject an ergonomic chair – I have had for many years! It is very comfortable and it is NOT the issue. I don’t believe you understand what I am telling you. It hurts to walk; it hurts to hobble in here everyday. I cannot walk in the mornings when I get up. My joints are stiff and I am in so much pain I am in tears. I wake during the night with numb hands and feet, yet they pulsate with pain. I have to get up and try and move to make it slow down. I take my medications and they work to a point, but it takes time, and it much less painful to sit on a recliner and complete computer work there.
As far as the “capabilities of my desk” - I have it the way is the most comfortable for me. I was not aware that there was a specific way that ALL people with pain issues or medical problems should be using their desks. If you happen to have the handbook on that with instructions (and perhaps illustrations), please sharthat with me – I was never given one when I received the desk or the chair. I am unsure of what you mean when you say “that you noted I do not use the ergonomic capabilities of my desk”. I have it the way that feels best for me so I don’t know what you want me to do.
Provided you with a handicap parking space.
ME: Nobody had anything to do with me getting a handicapped space, but ME. I drove to my doctor, got the paperwork filled out, went to the DMV and secured the tag. The spaces were already designated long before we moved into this building, and nobody “helped” me to get my tag or my space but ME.
Restructured your duties to allow you to rotate your work tasks in order to facilitate your personal comfort.
ME: My duties are exactly the same as when I started in this organization. Nothing has been changed. I still do the same things I have done since this group stood up twelve or so years ago.
Approved the use of FMLA which allows you to use time for your condition and medical appointments.
ME: While I appreciate the approval of FMLA, I don’t know how it could be denied, considering there are other people in this group working from home just because they want too. I don’t think it would be very fair, just as I don’t think this is fair either.
Relieved you of or provided assistance with tasks that you can’t comfortably do.
ME: I am still doing the same tasks I have always done; nothing has been removed or taken away. If I have heavy boxes in the mailroom, I find a clerk to lift them for me – other than that – everything is the same.
Allowed you to take more frequent breaks in order to move around and relieve your pain.
ME: I don’t take any more breaks than anyone else does. I do smoke, so when I go outside for that, perhaps you think I’m taking an extra break. Generally the same people are out there smoking around the same time everyday, so I would say I do not take anymore breaks than anyone else does, smoking or otherwise. I never go sit in the breakroom, nor do I go lollygag around anywhere else. Occasionally, I do go lay down in the nurse’s office, but that isn’t very often either and only when the pain is unbearable.
Offered you a change in your tour of duty, allowing you to come in later in the morning.
ME: I changed from 4/10s, to 5/4/9, and now to straight 8.
Suggested you bring a heating pad to work; you state in your email you use a heating pad at home to help reduce your pain.
ME:Yes that helps with sciatic pain somewhat, but does not help my joints. Getting moving and hobbling in here each day hurts. Going up and down these few stairs, standing and sitting, up and down, it hurts. I don’t expect you to understand, all I can tell you is that my pain is reduced so much by being on my recliner working on a laptop VS. coming in here every morning.
You are expected to:
Report to work on a regular and timely basis and perform the duties as outlined in your position description. These tasks include computer work, distributing mail, timekeeping, ordering supplies, filing, photo copying, answering telephone inquiries, servicing the group’s needs and helping other customers.
ME: I do all computer work required of me. I have went over to the main building to secure supplies for other areas, and complete many other duties as needed whenever you ask.
I distribute the mail timely, but that only takes about ten minutes per day if that, and in my opinion is the ONLY duty that cannot be done from home.
I order supplies using the computer, and receive e-mails from employees stating what they need me to order. All of this is done on-line, and it makes no difference if I’m at work or at home to receive notice of what is needed, order the supplies, complete all paperwork, balance the budget and statement; completing, this duty in its entirety. The ONLY thing I need to be in the office for regarding supplies is actually handing them to the employees once they get here. Since I only order supplies about once a month or less, it really doesn’t interfere with rather I am here every morning or not.
I rarely use the photocopy machine; I have a clerk for that. I cannot think of the last time I used it.
I rarely get phone calls, maybe one per month. When I worked from home before, I always checked my voicemail several times a day, just in case. I also have the option of forwarding my desk phone to my cell phone if need be so that I never miss a call – but since I rarely get calls, it has not been an issue.
I have very little interaction with the group, but do provide them whatever services they request. Normally, that would be completing a memo or PowerPoint for them. These tasks can also be done from home just as easily. I completed many power points, memo’s, and 847 claims, JCC, etc., when I worked form home before.
Notify your manager of any assistance or needs to successfully perform your duties.
ME: I am notifying you of that right now. I would like to have the opportunity to work from home in the mornings to work on computer related items.
At times when briefings or evals are due, I see no reason that I could not work from home the entire time to complete these. We know “when” they are due, we know when Evals and Mid-years are due, so we could pre-plan those days if that is what you want.
Notify Management in advance of any leave needed for medical appointments.
ME: I already do that. I call if I am going to be more than 2 hours late due to pain. (I could be sitting in my recliner completing work).
Request leave in the same manner required of all team members.
Notify management when you are unable to come to work and provide a written doctor statement for the absence.
ME: I do notify you if I am going to be off, and have provided you quite a bit of documentation about my medical condition. I believe you are fully aware of my medical issues.
In Summary: A review of your position description reaffirms to me that your position is not compatible with working any more than a very limited amount of flexi place. The overwhelming majority of your responsibilities take place in the office. This determination is made after consultation with and in concurrence with FOH, EEO, Management and Labor Relations.
ME: To summarize: I do not agree with this. My position is very compatible with working from home. I did so for 2 months after major shoulder surgery in which part of my collar bone was removed, and tendons and ligaments were re-attached with staples, wire and pins. I used very little sick leave during that time and was very grateful to you for providing me with that opportunity. I only began using sick leave because of being late in the mornings. I try my best to get here on time, I do. I get up at 5 a.m., take a boiling hot bath. I have to have help getting out of the tub, help to get dressed, I am doing the best that I can. I have two very serious medical issues going on at the same time. I do not understand why my organization can not see that, can not see how badly I want to remain successful, to do the things I need to do for you and for the group! I do not want to be this way. I know that the women in the group talk about me constantly. I hear it from other people in other groups that have been in the breakroom at the same time and have overheard them. I do my job, even so I am late, I make sure everything is done even if it’s killing me. I always make sure you and the groups needs are taken care of. I haven’t had a straight 5 evaluation for ten years because I sit around twiddling my fingers all day.
When I worked from home before, I completed all memo’s, briefings, employee evals, employee mid-years, supply ordering, consolidation of the card, and balancing the budget. I completed numerous power points, memos of understanding, training materials, etc, for the agents 847 Claims, and Joint Committee projects. I received many e-mails thanking me for doing such a great job and for completing the memo’s, training material, and power points ahead of schedule to allow for any changes before the classes began. In speaking with the NTEU Chapter President, the comment on Form 13361 Part IV, in which you stated “A review of the NTEU agreement shows that your occupation only qualifies you to work Situational/Hourly Flexiplace” Is incorrect. I have personally read the NTEU contract, and it states that BU employees are limited to 80 hours per month of Flex; however NBU employees (such as myself) may work their entire job from home with NO limitations.
Please notify me by March 21, 2012 if you have questions or need clarification concerning this determination. I sincerely hope the accommodations already provided will allow you to perform successfully in your position.
ME: As stated, I do not feel that any accommodation has been provided. I also know that I could work my entire job from home and remain fully successful and do an excellent job. I never let anything slide, and if by chance I do not know the answer, I always know who to contact to get the correct answer, and you know that. I always take care of business; I always get you exactly what you need. In fact, because of my network of contacts, I have been able to assist you in having someone here within an hour to fix your computer, when you had been told it would be several days before anyone could even come to look at it. I have been able to secure new printers, stacktrays, copy machines, faxes, phones, headsets, you name it – I CAN get it. I go above and beyond and use my contacts fully to assist this group and you. I am asking for you to help me now. I will ALWAYS be successful in my position. BUT – I am asking for you to allow me to remain as such and do it as pain-free as possible. I don’t think you really realize how much pain I am in, or what a difference you could make in my life considering I only have 4 years left. I know I can do an excellent job from another location. I did it before.