Gooden v. Office of Personnel Management 471 F.3d 1275 (Fed. Cir. 2006) was a seminal case that influenced many future deliberations related to the topic of Reasonable Accommodation.
While one of the seven eligibility criteria for FERS disability retirement states, “Your employing agency was unable to make reasonable accommodation”, many federal employees are unaware of the scope of their rights and would do well to take note of two key concepts clarified in Gooden v. OPM:
1. You do not necessarily need to request Reasonable Accommodation to prove that accommodation is unreasonable.
Case discussion clearly states that you are not required to request reasonable accommodation to fulfill this eligibility criterion. If it is clear that your medical restrictions or medical limitations (as certified by your medical professional, or as documented in your medical records) unequivocally preclude your ability to perform at least one essential function of your job and cannot possibly be sufficiently accommodated, it is unnecessary to go through the formal process of requesting reasonable accommodation and receiving a subsequent denial.
2. You do not necessarily need to request Reasonable Accommodation even if your agency advises you to do so.
In Gooden v. OPM, the Administrative Judge initially found that the accommodation requirement was not met, since Gooden had not requested accommodation after being invited to do so by her agency and thus could not prove that her agency was in fact unable to accommodate her. The MSPB ultimately concludes that since the medical evidence shows that she was unable to perform her essential duties, even with accommodation, the fact that Gooden turned down an offer to engage in the Reasonable Accommodation process does not invalidate her eligibility.
Note: In order to rely on the case-law drawn from Gooden v. OPM, be sure that it is crystal clear from your medical evidence that Reasonable Accommodation will still not allow you to perform the essential functions of your job before refusing to engage in the Reasonable Accommodation process with your agency.
Cyril Dubin works exclusively with federal employees to prepare their FERS Disability Retirement application. With her years of experience and fine-tuned process, she aims to make the experience smooth and stress-free. Reach out to Cyril at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the FERS Specialists website.