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#1 Posted : Sunday, September 28, 2014 12:12:55 PM(UTC)

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Secretary Vilsack recently argued at the U. S. Court of Appeals that a mentally ill USDA employee was not entitled to be accommodated via a maxiflex schedule. The Court handed the Secretary a firm rebuke and remanded the case to the District Court for a jury decision - TEN YEARS after Linda Solomon was denied maxiflex for accommodation of her depression by the USDA supervisors, managers and HR department.

In the ruling, the Court stated "The Secretary argues that the “ability to work a regular and predictable schedule” is, “as a matter of law, an essential element of any job,” Secretary Br. 38–39. That is incorrect. Nothing in the Rehabilitation Act takes such a schedule off the table as a matter of law. Quite the opposite, the Rehabilitation Act, through its incorporation of the Americans with Disabilities Act's standards, see 29 U.S.C. § 791(g), is explicit that a “reasonable accommodation” may include “job restructuring” and “part-time or modified work schedules.” 42 U.S.C. § 12111(9)(B); see also 5 C.F.R. § 610.111(d) (Office of Personnel Management regulations permit agencies to establish flexible or compressed work schedules); U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Negotiating Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules (July 1995) (federal employment regulations do not prescribe any “minimum or maximum amount of flexibility” with respect to work schedules established by federal employers)."

"U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Handbook on Alternative Work Schedules, states an alternative work schedule is one “that contains core hours on fewer than 10 workdays in the biweekly pay period and in which a full-time employee has a basic work requirement of 80 hours for the biweekly pay period, but in which an employee may vary the number of hours worked on a given workday or the number of hours each week within the limits established for the organization”)." Maxiflex is a form of reasonable accommodation.

In Clarice Sanchez v. Vilsack, the Secretary argued that Ms. Sanchez was not disabled after she lost a portion of her vision after falling at the work site, arguing that she wasn't blind enough or disabled enough because she had some vision. Ms. Sanchez requested a transfer to another USDA location in order to obtain medical treatment for her blindness, a relocation request which was denied by the USDA. She filed suit. The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled for Ms. Sanchez and determined that relocating for medical treatment for a disability is a form of reasonable accommodation.

President Obama, President Bush and Congress have issued Executive Orders and legislation to protect the disabled.
Those closest to the President should be champions of his policies and not participating in protracted legal battles when the facts and evidence are clearly on the side of the two disabled women.

Employees at the USDA need to be aware of the repercussions of disclosing their disabilities, especially if it is mental illness, and the real probability of losing their jobs.

Edited by user Monday, September 29, 2014 3:11:46 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

eva l  
#2 Posted : Tuesday, September 30, 2014 12:10:08 PM(UTC)

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Why is it ok for the Secretary to support mental health initiatives in rural areas but not in his own department? The woman has fought for 10 years to get her job back with maxiflex but the Secretary argued against maxiflex and clearly does not want the woman in the USDA workplace. The Secretary even states that his effort supports the President's commitment to address mental illness. So clearly the Secretary understands the President's policies but actively fights against the policies in his own workplace. So why have the initiative unless it is strictly politically motivated and NOT due to equal civil rights protection for the mentally ill.

WASHINGTON, Dec., 10, 2013 – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today announced that the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has set a goal of investing up to $50 million to increase access to mental health care in rural areas over the next three years. The funding will be used for the construction, expansion, or equipping of rural mental health facilities and will be provided through the Community Facilities direct loan program. USDA's effort to provide better mental health care in rural areas is part of President Obama's ongoing commitment to address mental illness.

"We need to be sure that every American has access to quality mental health services, including Americans living in rural areas," said Vilsack. "As part of the Obama Administration's effort to expand access to treatment for those suffering from mental health problems, USDA investments in mental health care facilities will reduce the difficulty many rural families face in accessing mental health help."

This year, USDA invested more than $649 million in 130 rural health care facilities. These investments included psychiatric hospitals, mental health care facilities, group homes for people with disabilities.

Edited by user Tuesday, September 30, 2014 12:19:40 PM(UTC)  | Reason: typo

#3 Posted : Tuesday, February 10, 2015 5:47:45 PM(UTC)

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Originally Posted by: lorsteluc Go to Quoted Post

Employees at the USDA need to be aware of the repercussions of disclosing their disabilities, especially if it is mental illness, and the real probability of losing their jobs.

Sadly, this agency and their attorneys are ignorant of employment discrimination law. Is a class action lawsuit against this agency in the process for continually failing to provide reasonable disability accommodations?


Edited by user Sunday, February 22, 2015 2:20:10 PM(UTC)  | Reason: Not specified

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