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January 21 Reasonable Accommodation Negotiations Update

After a week of grueling hours, the negotiations on Reasonable Accommodations ended on Friday, January 17, 2003, with the Mediator certifying that the parties are at impasse. The issue that led to impasse is whether the scope of the negotiations allowed negotiations on policies and procedures for processing reasonable accommodation request for electronic equipment. Management has indicated that the scope of the negotiations is Section 501 of the Rehabilitations Act of 1973, Executive Order 13164 and ADA. The Union's interruption is all of the sited regulations refer to electronic equipment, therefore management has an obligation to bargain. Since a majority of the reasonable accommodations requests within the Department include electronic technology (ergonomic keyboards, mouses, larger screens) the Union felt that we could not sign an agreement that did not include electronic technology. The Union was willing to allow management additional time to negotiate a separate procedure but they refused to commit to future negotiations; therefore, we were left with no choice but to walk away from the table without a supplement.

Understand that the Union is not saying that the Department isn't making reasonable accommodations for employees who request them. Rather, the Union is saying that there are no policies or procedures which protect the employees' privacy; outline the approval or denial process, provide a timeline for approval or denial, or an appeal process. Information Technology staff made a presentation to the negotiating team where they stated that they NEVER deny a request for equipment that is requested by a medical provider. The requests are processed within 48 hours unless the request is for some type of equipment which is not readily available. When the equipment is not available they notify the employee that the equipment is on order and when it will be provided. The Union put the procedures provided verbally in writing as a proposal and management refused to negotiate.

Besides feeling that Management has a legal obligation to bargain the Union feels it is the right thing to do. It is in the best interest of employees to have one place to refer to if they have a need to make a reasonable accommodation request and the logical place to go to is the handbook 7855.1 "Reasonable Accommodations for Individuals With Disabilities," rather than referring to two Web sites, two handbooks and/or two supplements. If the Department truly is committed to being a model workplace they should be as employee friendly as possible and have all of the information in one location, even if there are two different processes.

The Union will request that the Federal Services Impasse Panel (FSIP) hear arguments on this issue ASAP. We will keep you informed. In the mean time, we urge you to let management and others you think are appropriate know.

Click here to read the supplement as agreed to thus far. If you would like to view the regulations they can be found at http://www.blind.net/bg320001.htm.

Sherry Norton, Chief Negotiator
Local President, Local 3412