Earlier this year, Hoyer Law Group (HLG) earned an impressive victory when Chief Administrative Judge Patrick Kokenge of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Miami District Office denied the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Motion for Summary Judgment in a case involving failure to accommodate a medical disability. Scott v. Dep’t of Veterans Affairs, EEOC No. 510-2020-00143X. In their Motion, the VA argued that federal agencies are not required to provide the specific accommodation requested by an employee, as long as the agency provides an effective accommodation under the circumstances.
The Case for Accommodations
Hoyer Law Group’s client, known in this case as a “Complainant,” is a veteran of the United States military who suffers from service-connected PTSD. Due to his specific working conditions, Complainant requested a compressed schedule and the ability to telework – an ability his fellow coworkers were otherwise afforded. The VA denied this request, but instead offered Complainant noise cancelling headphones, the ability to dim his office lights, liberal use of his accrued leave, and increased interaction with his supervisor.
HLG attorney Neil J. Ognibene filed an Opposition to the VA’s Motion exposing the VA’s alternative accommodations as transparent and veiled attempts to fulfil their duty of addressing Complainant’s disability but failing to actually offer an effective accommodation. Mr. Ognibene argued that the “accommodations” offered by the VA cannot even be construed as accommodations, pointing out that Complainant already had the ability to wear noise cancelling headphones, dim his office lights, and use his approved leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).
Furthermore, Complainant alleged that interactions with his supervisor was the root trigger of his PTSD symptoms, and the suggestion that he have increased interaction with him felt more like a slap in the face. Mr. Ognibene also argued that the VA was unable to justify why Complainant’s coworkers were permitted to telework, yet Complainant, with a medically necessary accommodation, was not.
After only two short weeks of deliberation, Chief Administrative Judge Kokenge issued a ruling in favor of Mr. Ognibene’s argument and unequivocally denied the VA’s Motion. The case is scheduled to continue to a hearing by the end of this year.