Common sense says that an employee with full-time job responsibilities cannot perform that job on a part-time basis. But that’s essentially what disabled employees claim when they ask for a permanent reduced-hour schedule to accommodate their disability.
You can refuse such a request if you can show that the essential functions of the job include being at work and directing the workflow. The easiest way to show the requested accommodation is unreasonable is to review a current job description and identify the essential functions that can’t be done on a part-time basis. That’s especially easy when the job entails supervision and problem-solving. As the following case shows, an employee’s claim that he or she can work at “150%” during a four-hour day isn’t enough when the job description clearly shows that being at work is crucial.
Recent case: Kathy Plourde worked for the IRS as a section chief. Each chief supervised five managers, who in turn supervised 150 employees. Her job also included monitoring and controlling the daily workflow of employees doing time-sensitive work.
Plourde hurt her back and was out for 18 months. Her doctor eventually cleared her to work four hours per day. He said the restriction was indefinite. That’s when the IRS transferred Plourde to a lower-grade job that could be done in a 20-hour workweek.
Plourde sued, alleging a failure to accommodate. But the 2nd Circuit tossed out her case after the IRS brought in her job description. It clearly showed that no matter how hard Plourde claimed to work—even if it was at 150% capacity—she couldn’t perform part-time the essential functions required to direct a workforce. (Plourde v. IRS, No. 06-3133, 2nd Cir., 2007)
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