Modification of Work Schedule as Reasonable Accommodation

In Boozer v. U.S. Postal Service, EEOC Appeal No. 0120060283 (July 24, 2007), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC or Commission) held that a modified work schedule relating to an employee's commute may constitute a reasonable accommodation under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended.

The complainant was a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) employee who, following a stroke, was diagnosed with two inner-ear conditions which, when exacerbated, resulted in various problems, including dizziness, nausea, falls, irregular sleep patterns, and total incapacitation. The employee requested that her work schedule be changed so that she did not work past 8:00 p.m., as recommended by her physician. The agency denied this request based upon its own conclusion that the employee did not satisfy the legal test for determining eligibility for reasonable accommodation because her medical condition did not substantially limit any major life activity. The employee filed a formal discrimination complaint and later requested a hearing before an EEOC administrative judge.

The EEOC administrative judge issued a decision without a hearing which found no existence of discrimination by the agency. In the decision, the judge found, among other things, that the employee was not entitled to a work schedule restricted to daytime hours because such an accommodation would have been related to the employee's commute, but not to the essential functions of her job. The agency issued a final action adopting the administrative judge's decision.

On appeal from the final agency action, the Commission made two significant legal findings. Citing its prior case law, the EEOC concluded that a modified schedule, such as daytime hours, may be a reasonable accommodation. See EEOC Notice No. 915.002 at pp. 34-35 (10/17/02). Also, the EEOC instructed that if a schedule modification poses an undue hardship on the agency, then the employer must consider reassignment to a vacant position that would enable the employee to work during the hours requested. Ultimately, the Commission vacated the agency's final action and remanded the matter for a hearing before an administrative judge for the complainant to prove that she is substantially limited in a major life activity.