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Are Flexible Hours a Reasonable Accommodation by Employer?
Jun 9, 2001

I'm HIV Positive, and have been on medications for almost two months now. The test results have been excellent. I'm feeling so much better now with no side-effects other than I do require more sleep than before. I work in an office that is on a 4 1/2 day work-week, 7:30 a.m. -5:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday, and 7:30-12:30 on Friday. I went back to work but could not get to work when my boss required, i.e., 7:30 am. I was sent home for another month of short-term disability with a great deal of understanding and generosity on their part. However, I sense that I still may not be able to keep the early office hours as my boss needs. Can I be terminated for not being able to work standard company hours? Are flexible hours a reasonable accommodation that my employer should make for someone in my position as a "handicapped" person? I understand my boss needing support at 7:30 a.m., so do you think my company might have an obligation to reassign me to another position where more reasonable hours can be accommodated? My responsibilties and duties are all internal with no public contact or public business. There are no other limitations to my work ability other than the fact that I very much require more sleep than before I started meds, and getting up at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. is impossible. I'd really like to stay with this employer, but I don't know where they will draw the line with employees. I'd appreciate your insight.

Response from Ms. Breuer

Congratulations on doing so well. Yes, flexible hours are among the most common reasonable accommodations. Obtain a physician's note about why you need flexible hours, make sure the note does not name the diagnosis, submit it to HR in person and talk with the HR director about how you've figured out how to fulfill all of the essential functions of your job with flexible hours, and don't give in if they ask you the diagnosis. It doesn't matter.

It's not unreasonable to expect that someone else would be trained to cover the first 1.5 hours of the day, for example, or that you'd leave your boss's work in such a condition at the close of your work day that she or he would be able to navigate solo for the first 1.5 hours.

If you make it clear that you've figured out a way to fulfill all of your essential functions with flexible hours, your likelihood of a good outcome is high. If they refuse, and they have more than 15 employees, seek out an attorney experienced in workplace discrimination (ideally through your local AIDS service organization) and ask that person to write a polite, firm explanatory letter to your employer. Good luck! YOu sound like a conscientious employee whom an employer would be wise to keep.

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