EEOC holds agencies must only provide accommodations for a disability. Complainant filed an Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) complaint alleging discrimination on the bases of disability (injured left ankle) and age (DOB: 6/9/50), when she was denied a transfer or reassignment to Coppell, Texas. Complainant’s request was denied solely because she was on limited duty. HR stated, “individuals on light or limited duty are ineligible for reassignment as they are unable to perform all duties of the position they are requesting.” Following the initial investigation, the Complainant requested a decision without a hearing, and the Agency issued its Final Agency Decision (FAD) finding no discrimination. Complainant then appealed to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

On appeal, the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations (OFO) assumed the Complainant established that she was a qualified individual with a disability. They noted that the Agency previously was able to reasonably accommodate the Complainant’s disability by placing her in a permanent limited duty assignment. However, the OFO noted that, although the duty to provide a reasonable accommodation is an ongoing one, such accommodations are only necessitated by a disability. In this case, Complainant’s request for reassignment was not because of her disability, but rather a personal request to be able to move with her husband. The OFO held that the Agency had no obligation to reassign the Complainant to Texas as a reasonable accommodation. The OFO further held that assuming the Complainant had set out a prima facie case of disability discrimination, the Agency was able to articulate a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for denying the transfer- i.e. the HR policy. Although the OFO noted that the Agency’s policy likely excludes qualified applicants from consideration because it does not evaluate the applicants on a case-by-case basis under said policy, the record established that the Agency applied its policy in a uniform manner, without consideration as to whether the application for reassignment had a disability, and was therefore the Agency had not engaged in disparate treatment. Further, the OFO held that the Complainant failed to make a prima facie case of age discrimination, and even if she had done so, the Agency was able to show that it treated similarly situated employees the same as it did Complainant. The OFO affirmed the Agency’s FAD finding no discrimination.

Patricia A. Kyes v. United States Postal Service, EEOC Appeal No. 01976196 (May 18, 1999)

Attorney Kirk J. Angel represents federal employees nationwide in EEO proceedings