Before COVID, Joan Schiener, who lives 55 miles from her office, rented a room in Rochester to continue working at NYSIF. The pandemic changed that arrangement and her room is no longer available. NYSIF wants her back at the office.
At 69 years old, the situation is unsustainable and she asked for reasonable accommodation to continue working at home. In her request, she outlined the loss of the room, the dangers of driving at night, the compressed hours and her ability get much more done telecommuting.
“I have a designated office at home, no one else is home during the day and I often work ‘free’ extra hours before or after work because it’s quiet, relaxing and I am rested,” she said.
NYSIF asked for a doctor’s note, which she provided. The agency then asked for a phone interview. Schiener was hopeful.
“I mentioned a few times how grateful I am to NYSIF for giving me back a family life, where I am available to my family each day,” she said, adding that with ill family members who rely on her, she benefits from being at home and not 55 miles away in case of emergency. “I love my job. I love helping people and I go over and above to do the best job possible.”
She got largely the same response as other Division members.
NYSIF denied the request because medical documentation did not state she has limitations that would prevent her from performing essential job duties and the ADA does not require an employer to provide commuting-related accommodation.
They also gave her the blanket “undue hardship” line and noted that New York lifted the COVID-19 state of emergency. With the rise in COVID cases, Schiener hopes the agency will shift course.
“They did not explain the hardship,” she said. “We want to believe that NYSIF cares enough about all employees to keep us safe by allowing us to work from home, when possible, instead of forcing vaccines or COVID testing.”