Sunday Apr 02, 2023

State workers fear loss of disability protection under Youngkin telework policy – Richmond Times-Dispatch


Lisa Nicholson is doing the same job for state government that she has done since 2008, while working from home four to five days a week.

Nicholson, 53, of South Richmond, is an information technology specialist who manages grant funding for local public safety communications agencies. She works from home because she has two well-documented medical conditions – multi-organ sarcoidosis and narcolepsy with cataplexy – that her doctors have confirmed are permanently disabling but don’t prevent her from doing her job remotely.

But now she is fighting to maintain a workplace medical accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act so she can continue working from home at least four days a week under a new state teleworking policy. Gov. Glenn Youngkin is imposing the policy on all employees of executive branch state agencies, effective July 5, to return them to the office after working remotely for more than two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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“Nothing changed,” she said of her medical status and job duties.

Nicholson’s predicament raises concerns about how Youngkin’s policy treats state employees with documented disabilities under the ADA, especially if they have proved they can perform essential functions of the job with some accommodations, such as working remotely.

Youngkin administration behind deadline in reviewing telework requests

The only thing that is different in Nicholson’s job is that she was transferred with her entire division from the Virginia Information Technologies Agency to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management on July 1, 2020, under a state law the General Assembly adopted that year. She has the same duties and supervisor, whom she said is fully aware of her medical disabilities.

Her new agency contends that Nicholson’s ADA accommodation, allowing her to work remotely and use special equipment, expired during the transfer and must be renewed – with medical documentation – before she can be approved for a new telework agreement.

Ultimately, her request to continue teleworking four to five days a week would be subject to approval by the governor’s chief of staff, Jeff Goettman, who would have to sign off …….


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