is this HR process for accommodations as bananas as it feels?

A reader writes:

Like many companies, mine recently announced a tightening of hybrid/WFH scheduling. During the pandemic, I started an ongoing series of weekly healthcare appointments via telehealth, which have made a massive improvement in my life.

Until now, company policy was that people who are not client-facing could work from the office or from home at our discretion, subject to manager approval in the case of performance concerns. This makes telehealth appointments really easy! I have privacy, I can use a reliable hardwired internet connection to connect with my provider on my personal device, and there is no gap for travel between office and home — at the appointment time, I close my work laptop, open my home laptop, take the appointment, then turn right back to my work laptop and carry on. My boss does not care about me taking this time; I’m salaried and work well over 40 hours/week anyway, so one hour of the day, appropriately blocked off on my calendar, is no big deal.

Recently, our policy was refined to require a certain number of days in the office per week. Normally this would be fine with me — I prefer working in the office. But in certain circumstances (some recurring events I take PTO for a few times a year, and sometimes around holidays), I would be required to work in the office every other day of the week, including my appointment day.

I’ve tried taking my appointments in the office via my mobile phone, but it’s difficult to find privacy, the signal at the office is very poor, and my provider’s telehealth portal doesn’t play well with my phone. I could, I suppose, work in the office, then drive home for my appointment, and afterward drive back to the office. But this takes additional time out of my day, and also introduces additional risks (i.e., if I get caught in traffic and miss my appointment, incurring a missed appointment fee that insurance will not cover, as well as missing out on that week’s care). It would really be so much easier to just work from home one day a week, even if that’s the only day that week I work at all!

So I put in medical accommodation paperwork asking for a guaranteed WFH day to cover my medical care, with appropriate documentation from my provider. We are a Fortune 100 company and it seemed to me like it would be a simple and straightforward accommodations request.

Thus started the carnival of horrors.

A member of HR reached out to me to discuss my request. She then told me that this didn’t sound like her area and I needed to talk with our timekeeping segment of HR. So I called them and received a canned spiel about how I could qualify to give up my desk in the office altogether and work from home full-time. When I clarified that I was looking for a once a week accommodation, she referred me to yet another department of HR. This department heard my summary of what I’d been offered so far, then told me that if the first person had said it wasn’t her area, that sounded like I was being denied my medical accommodation and I would need to consult with an HR advocate. The advocate contacted me a day later, and gave me a condescending speech that boiled down to saying I should request FMLA to cover my healthcare appointments so they would be protected. He refused to engage with or address the question of whether FMLA would touch at all on my ability to work from home outside of the dedicated time away for my appointments. The other options he offered were to take an additional day of PTO for my appointment anytime it looked like I was going to fall afoul of policy, reschedule with my provider outside of working hours (those are also HER working hours!), or every compliance person’s favorite answer, “Don’t worry about it, exceptions can be made for occasional policy violations.” He refused to articulate for me if an exceptions policy was actually in place.

Is this bananas? This feels bananas! My understanding is that FMLA is about time NOT working, not accommodations to my working environment, and that being told the only answer the company can give me is “try for FMLA” is essentially a low-key way of telling me they are denying my accommodation request without any interactive process. I don’t know what’s going on anymore, just that I am trying to be a conscientious employee getting things in place before a problem arises, and apparently that is in fact how problems arise!

Yeah, this is a little bananas. FMLA isn’t the right solution here; as you note, it protects your job when you miss work and doesn’t cover things like work-from-home days. They’re missing the point: you’re not concerned about missing work, you’re asking for an accommodation to make medical appointments easier.

I think what you’re running into is probably that what you’re requesting isn’t something the law for medical accommodations would require them to offer. That law — the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) — would require that you be able to attend your appointments (assuming whatever you’re seeking treatment for falls under the ADA’s purview, but let’s assume it does) but not that you be able to do it in the easiest possible way. They’d be complying with the law just by ensuring you’re able to get the time off work for the appointments.

That might be why HR handled this the way they did … but if so, they’re communicating that badly.

Also, smart companies try to accommodate people even when they’re not strictly required to by law! If you have a compelling reason to have a protected work-from-home day each week (and it sounds like you do) and your boss is fine with that, they should at least think about formally accommodating that.

The fact that they’re not says either (a) they’re overly rigid and can’t assess situations outside of a strict legal framework or (b) company leadership has made it clear they want as few exceptions as possible to their return-to-office policies.

Any chance your boss can okay the arrangement you want informally? That’s not as ideal as having a written accommodation on file, but it might be a practical way to get what you want, at least some of the time.

Read an update to this letter

{ 288 comments… read them below }

  1. lunchtime caller*

    Lots of good points in the answer here, but also just my opinion, it does sound like you invited trouble where there currently was none. You started this entire official process around the possibility of maybe not being able to WFH on a small handful of days later on in the year? I’m at a very “butts in seats” company that has strongly returned to the office 4 days a week, and even they don’t care about a few exceptions here and there–but it’s handled by just looping in your boss, not trying to get HR to make a ruling.

    1. DMLOKC*

      I agree. This seems like an ask that should start with the manager not HR. There are probably more levels above the manager and below HR that could be explored, if needed.

      1. libellulebelle*

        The OP (posting under “LW”) has some clarifications and an update below, including that they did approach their manager first.

    2. Lana Kane*

      Came here to say this. This should have started with the manager and then escalated through them if needed. This can easily be an informal thing as it happens seldom throughout the year.

      That being said, HR’s answers are definitely bananas. HR should have handled this much, much better.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I agree, coming from a functional department with a not bananapants manager. I would have started with, “I have medical appointments on X day each week/month. Can I work from home that day and come in a different day?”
      And my boss says yes, because it’s sensible.
      The real question is why didn’t OP go to her manager first and ask this. Is her manager, “Them’s the rules!” or some other reason for being inflexible?

      1. Trout 'Waver*

        Yeah, I don’t want to be harsh with the letter writer because they obviously have a lot more context.

        But I 100% agree. If one of my direct reports came to me with this request, I’d say “Yes, of course. Go do that.” Without even asking HR or anyone else.

        1. abca*

          In many companies, including large tech companies, managers do not have that authority. Checking that everyone clocks in at the office every day is HR responsibility. Most managers are pretty low in the hierarchy themselves and would like this WFH flexibility too, but the powers that be decided that 5 days a week butts in seat is top priority.

        2. LW*

          I did start with my manager. He does not have the authority to unilaterally waive company policy. He told me to go to HR so my request would be appropriately documented and could be handled formally and according to procedure.

          1. Mockingjay*

            Go back to your manager and ask him to provide documentation as well. A statement: “LW has requested one work from home (WFH) day per week to facilitate a recurring medical appointment. We have discussed her tasking and WFH will not affect her ability in any way to complete her work on time, as demonstrated previously by her excellent remote work performance during the pandemic.”

            Add whatever details or key words HR needs to hear: “this arrangement allows LW to still complete a full day’s work, meet schedule for very important project, etc.” Draft it for him if that’s what it takes.

    4. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, I think I’m coming to the same conclusion, although I see OP’s point that, if the boss last-minute declines to let her work from home the day she has the appointment she will have to eat a cancellation fee and won’t have any recourse in future. Plus, if OP’s boss changes, there won’t be any certainty about getting those days from home. But since the HR process is not being helpful anyway, it ended up being better off going it alone. Hindsight, man.

    5. goducks*

      Agreed. That’s what the HR person was trying to get at by suggesting that occasional exceptions can be made.

      I’d be super confused if a member of staff asked for a formal accommodation for WFH for a few days a year, which is the type of thing that many employees need and they just work with their manager on those occasions.

      That’s almost certainly why they suggested FMLA, they’re trying to help the LW make sure she can attend her appointments without penalty. Attending appointments is inherently non-working time, thus FMLA.

    6. umami*

      Yes, I really feel like this is one of those instances where talking with the supervisor would have been the best route, because you can’t put the genie back in the bottle! Once you fill out paperwork and invoke ‘accommodation’, it’s really hard to walk that back to a simple request to a supervisor saying ‘I’d like to switch my WFH day next week’.

      1. Ann O'Nemity*

        Yes, this sounds like an exception that would fall under Manager Discretion and not need any formal HR bureaucratic paperwork.

        1. LW*

          Not at my firm, unfortunately. Our managers have very limited ability to countermand formal company policy, and violations of our WFH go up 3 management levels, so it would put my boss in trouble with *his* grandboss if he let me get away with not following policy.

    7. Accommodating*

      Depends on what senior management has told their direct reports.

      We used to have flexibility that our managers could authorize but the new CEO stripped that power from everyone but HR. Now everything has to go through HR, and HR is — so far — denying all requests except for FMLA.

      The suspicion is that the new CEO is having reports sent his way showing badge-in/badge-out times for everyone in the company and firings will begin soon for anyone who isn’t in the office Mon-Th for 9 hours a day, with the core hours being 9:30-3:30. If you leave early for a doctor’s appointment, you’ll have to loop in HR as well as your manager.

      And HR is pushing intermittent FMLA for those doctor’s appointments. I don’t even know how that works for salaried people. Are they actually going to dock a pro-rated hour’s worth of pay? We don’t have a central time-keeping system, just hours we book on our department’s spreadsheets so we know how many people-hours it takes to complete certain projects.

      It’s freaking crazy. We’re salaried professionals with advanced degrees. We’re here because we like our jobs and we want to do good work.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        I think for salaried, exempt employees they have to pay your full salary if you work at all during the week. What they can do is subtract that hour of intermittent FMLA from your allotment of paid time off.

        HR may be urging people to set up intermittent FMLA so you can’t be fired for not being in the office during that time. Otherwise, while it would be stupid as well as mean to fire people for working “only” 45 hours a week because when those hours didn’t include Tuesday from 2 until 3, it might be legal.

        I know from reading AAM that American employers can fire people for all sorts of arbitrary or stupid reasons, like “only” working ten hours on the third Tuesday of every month or not liking Bruce Springsteen. However, I think firing you for being away from the office and using FMLA would be illegal FMLA interference.

    8. Smithy*

      Agree with this – also – one option the OP didn’t mention trying is if their home device is a laptop or tablet, bringing that and using their mobile phone as a hotspot.

      This would remove the issues of whether or not the telehealth port plays well on their phone, and provided they can find one phone booth or conference room in their office with decent phone reception, would resolve the issue the handful of times its needed. If that does work, the OP might want to bring headphones for an extra layer of privacy just in case the office walls aren’t as thick as they could be.

      All to say, that if this truly is just 3/4 times a year – then their boss might give them an “off the books” exception, or taking an extra half day of PTO might even be nice. Not to mention, on some holiday weeks (i.e. Thanksgiving or Christmas) their provider might need to move the appointment anyways.

      1. goducks*

        I once did a telehealth visit from my car in the far corner of work’s parking lot for privacy. When I apologized for being in my car the doctor laughed and said it’s actually pretty common.

        1. AnotherOne*

          One of my friend’s recently did a telehealth appointment from a public transit hub. She lives in one state, her doctor is in another- so she travelled to a transit hub in the state her doctor is in for her telehealth appointment.

          Because she had to be in that state for the appointment.

          That was a lesson learned for our whole friend group.

          1. Brain the Brian*

            I live in one state — where all my medical providers practice — but my employer’s office is across a river in another state. My providers cannot practice in the state where my office is located, so I have to take all telehealth appointments from home. Like OP, I have a weekly recurring telehealth appointment — but also others every now and again. Thankfully, my manager is sane and doesn’t even bother to notify HR if I need an additional WFH day here and there.

          2. Single Noun*

            I once did a telehealth appointment around back of a bus station, because there weren’t any spots available earlier in the week and I didn’t want to push it even further back, but I had a 3-hour layover that my appointment conveniently fell right in the middle of

        2. Nightengale*

          I (as the provider) do plenty of telehealth with people in cars. No big deal. I draw the line doing telehealth with the driver of a moving car.

          1. Brain the Brian*

            I draw that same line with doing Teams calls with field-based coworkers! Funny home some people seem unable to grasp the idea that you shouldn’t be on videochat while operating a several-ton moving object.

    9. Dust Bunny*

      This is how we would do it, too, even though our HR isn’t bananapants and would just okay it, anyway. But, mostly, nobody cares as long as I’m getting my hours in and it’s not causing problems for my coworkers (and an hour here and there would not).

    10. Beth*

      Yes, this is definitely a “start by talking to your manager” deal. And even if you can’t get an informal WFH accommodation, I’d still default to avoiding a formal HR accommodation for something like! It’s not unusual to take an appointment over ‘lunch’ (regardless of time of day), drive a few minutes to a place with good signal, and do the appointment in the car. Yes, it’s a pain if the telehealth app doesn’t play nice with mobile, but it’s only a few times a year.

      There’s such a thing as being too by-the-book. A formal accommodation isn’t worth the hassle for something this minor and occasional.

    11. LW*

      To be clear, I did start with my manager. My manager’s answer was “talk to HR and get an accommodation in place.”

      1. Green great dragon*

        Oof. Is the manager usually reluctant to take responsibility for things or are upper management being terribly strict about it all?

        I don’t suppose you could make up the office time the week before or the week after those PTO days?

        1. LW*

          Upper management is being strict. My boss is very big on letting us do whatever we need, but he doesn’t have this authority.

      2. ariel*

        That’s really disappointing, I’m sorry they weren’t willing to be flexible with you and help you avoid this bananapants carnival.

      3. Brain the Brian*

        Sorry to hear this, LW. (My manager is the opposite, often overlooking situations when accommodations really are necessary.)

      4. Smithy*

        Sorry to hear that – but then I’d try to see if you can do anything to take the appointment from the office or nearby the office in a better way (i.e. hotspotting your personal laptop to your phone?).

        I had one job that didn’t have any formal remote work in place, so during an unfortunately long job hunt I found a hotel lobby near my office that had an elevated atrium where I could easily take an “hour lunch” for telephone or Zoom interviews. While there should be more gracious and above board solutions, this seems like a wildly unnecessary headache.

      5. so very tired*

        I’m dealing with the same crap from my boss for this situation and it’s horrid. I am so sorry

      6. Goldenrod*

        LW, your HR sounds as disappointing and incompetent as the HR where I work!

        They are (in my personal experience) absolutely useless. I’m sorry you are having to experience this!

      7. lunchtime caller*

        Ah, I see! That’s so frustrating then that you just keep being passed around all these people when any one of them should have been able to help, ugh.

      8. Love to WFH*

        The manager may be getting pressured to show butts-in-seats, and assumed that the HR accommodation would be simple and get them both off the hook. The accommodation _should_ be simple! Before the pandemic, places that I worked were all fine with “work from home if you have a doctor’s appointment”.

    12. Fine with WFH*

      I have to agree, I can understand the OP’s desire to have everything documented and clarified from the get go, but it probably would have been easier to first talk with their boss and see if there’s an option to simply switch wfh/in-office days on the weeks where a conflict occurs. My firm has a strict 3 days a week policy (M/W/T) but my boss always let me leave early and although it’s not in the policy, HR does still allow exceptions so you can switch days. I’m not sure how to proceed with the HR circus that’s happening, but it’s not too late to talk to your boss and see what they say/suggest.

    13. Samwise*

      It’s not a few days a year though? Every week, so every other week OP is required to be in the office on the telehealth appt day. That’s 26 weeks.

      I completely understand why OP went with a formal request. The boss may be ok with it, but suppose the boss leaves (bus accident/lottery). It makes sense to have it set up and ok’d in advance by HR, especially if OP expects that it will just be some paperwork, easy peasy.

      If OP is asking for an ADA accommodation, sure, the employer does not have to say OK to the proposed accommodation. But nor does OP have to take the employer’s suggested accommodation, no questions asked. It is supposed to be a collaborative process.

      I’d first of all take Alison’s advice to see if OP’s boss will ok it. Get it in writing if boss says yes.

      And then, OP you can pursue it further with HR if you want to — if your boss is willing and able, have them advocate for you. Because HR”s response is a whole bunch of dumbassery.

      1. lunchtime caller*

        The way I understood their explanation was that they have to be in the office a certain number of days a week, which is usually fine as they make appt day their WFH day. It’s only a conflict a few times a week when other days are already OOO ones (holiday, etc) so their remaining, say, 3 days working that week must all be in the office to meet the minimum. Not a conflict that’s happening for every single appt.

        1. LW*

          Correct. I would anticipate it being an issue an utter MAXIMUM of 6 times a year, more likely 3 or 4.

          1. ThatGirl*

            Forgive me if you’ve thought of this or answered it elsewhere, but how far in advance do you know this will happen? Can you shift your telehealth appointment to a different day on those weeks only?

            1. LW*

              It wouldn’t really matter if it was on a different day, because I wouldn’t be allowed to WFH at all those weeks.

              1. ThatGirl*

                Yeah, I saw your explanation elsewhere. Glad it got worked out but sorry it was so bananas in the first place.

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            It seems super weird to me to require an accommodation for that at all.

            But I recently went through an accommodation process asking to be WFH permanently when my company started requiring people to come in 2x per week. While I don’t know what may have happened behind the scenes, for me the process was basically to submit my request to HR, they reached out to my manager to say “this is the accommodation request, would this pose any hardship for your team” (note: they do not disclose the reason for the accommodation to my manager, just what accommodation I was asking for). I had already spoken to my manager about it and she was already on board so she told the HR team there was no problem and then the request was granted.

        2. birch*

          This is the part I don’t understand, it seems like that policy itself is bananas. I don’t see the actual number of days of WFH allowed, but assuming it’s one per week–shouldn’t the requirement be one *working* day per week? If you’re only working 4 days a week because there’s a holiday or you’re taking PTO, it’s a 4 day week and you should have 3 days in office and 1 at home. How does it work if there are 2 or 3 holidays in the same week? Are you not allowed to WFH at all for several weeks then? Why on earth would someone make a policy based on actual days of the week rather than business days?

      2. Lily Rowan*

        Just to clarify, the OP is generally WFH on the appointment day. In weeks where the OP is taking days off for other reasons, in order to meet the three-days-in-the-office policy (or whatever it is), they would have to be in the office on the appointment day. That’s the issue.

    14. Llama Llama*

      Granted my example was a every day need, but ai had an employee get an official accommodation to WFH all days (this was pre pandemic). I didn’t give to rats if he worked from home but management certainly did. While his need was logical, he went the actual route to protect himself from people besides me. (Hell my grandboss was even pissy that he went the official route).
      And in the end it worked out that he did. My manager started demanding that he come in for all hands meetings (the accommodation was about being immunocompromised!). HR stepped in and put a stop to that.

    15. H3llifIknow*

      I came to say basically this exact same thing. I’m not about “blaming the victim” but the OP 100% started this by going down a sidetrack, off a country road, off of the exit ramp, next to the highway of “getting things done efficiently.” A quick convo with the boss and DONE.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        She did not do any of that. She started by talking to her boss, who is unable to make these ad hoc accommodations per orders from on high. Boss told her that she must work through HR.

    16. The Shenanigans*

      Hard disagree. One of the reasons disabled and medically challenged people end up underemployed is because companies will lay people off for taking time to deal with their illness if there isn’t anything formal in place. They never SAY it like that of course. They just talk about reliability and so on. It’s 100% the smart thing to get it in writing under the law. The OP should go back with “I’m requesting formal accommodations under the ADA. The law requires an interactive process between me and the company. Who can I set this legally required meeting up with?”. If employees don’t do this, offices generally react badly. Not always out of malice, but that doesn’t matter since the effect is the same. And clearly the OPs office is no exception.

      Anyone who’s dealt with long term medical anything knows this necessary. People with these issues get far less flexibility than someone without. So just because Able-bodied Susie can take a day regularly for appointments, that doesn’t mean OP can without penalty. I run into this all the time. Therefore it’s absolutely necessary to make it official. There’s also the stress of making an appointment, having to argue the need for PTO without giving too much away, worrying if you’ll get it, having to change appointments when you inevitably don’t get it… etc.

      Really, offices should be required to allow people to work from home however much they want if the job allows for it. The only reason to demand butt in seats is control. But I’m the meantime, the OP can and should do whatever it takes to protect their health and no one should be shaming them for it.

      1. LW*

        Absolutely this, thank you.

        I don’t trust “oh we’ll make an exception to policy.” Ad hoc exceptions can be revoked at any time, and even worse, they can be revoked after the fact. If I am out of compliance with an understanding that that is okay, and then someone comes in who wants to discriminate against people like me (and yes, I belong to a few different groups that people like to discriminate against), then suddenly I have a track record of being out of adherence and I am first against the wall when the layoffs come.

    17. B*

      I work for a company pushing people back into the office that sent vaguely threatening emails to people who aren’t coming into the office enough, without asking their managers to apply judgement to whether there were reasons for it like WFH sick or having an exception. They’re trying to push it from the top down and the managers are trying to be normal human beings and apply judgement and empathy but that’s not what the company wants so they’ve made it extremely hard to get an exception

      I immediately understood the reason to go through hr

  2. Veryanon*

    This kind of HR Dept gives the rest of us a bad name. This is a pretty easy ask and if the employee has supporting medical documentation *and* the manager supports it, a simple email confirming the arrangement is really all that’s needed.

    1. Judge Judy and Executioner*

      It’s sadly common, most HR departments I’ve dealt with are incredibly inept when it comes to reasonable accommodations. An easy to understand streamlined process is the exception, not the norm in corporate America.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “It’s sadly common, most HR departments I’ve dealt with are incredibly inept.”

        Agree with this!! I was the EA for the President of HR at the very large public institution. We have thousands of employees. She was at the top of the food chain. And I can tell you from close observation, the “leadership” at the very top is laughable. My boss played favorites, made people cry in meetings, and delegated all of her work to her henchmen, because she was incapable of doing it herself.

      2. nope*

        I had to explain to the VP of HR that he admitted to a HIPAA violation in writing and he needs to find the records my doctor sent or else he’d need to report the breach. My company requires us to take HIPAA training yearly, yet the VP of HR doesn’t know what us worker drones do?! Insanity.

  3. HonorBox*

    OP, as Alison says, I’d go back to your boss and see what they can do to informally accommodate your request. It seems like the instances where you’d be in the office every other day are a few times throughout the year and not regularly, so they may be willing to come up with some workaround for those few times since you aren’t asking for a complete overhaul of your schedule. You might frame it by saying, “I went to HR and it seems that they’re trying to go through processes that will make this request more consequential than need be. I’m wondering if, in those few instances during the year where I’d be in the office every other day, you’d be OK if I work from home one of those days, or even part of one of those days, just so I can keep these appointments and get back working easily. Going with HR’s suggestions, I’d be out of the office the entire day and I’d rather just take the 40 minutes and get back to work.”

    1. ferrina*

      Yeah, the boss seems like the easiest solution here. Can you switch which day you work from the office, or just work from home for an extra day? Who would notice if you just….stopped going in on that day? That might be the easiest option.

      I feel for LW though- they tried to do the right thing and got stonewalled every time.

  4. Accommodating*

    My VP, my Director, my Senior Manager, *and* my Manager are all fine with me working from home 2-3 days a week and working flexible hours on the days I do go into the office.

    Our new CEO has nixed flexible arrangements across the board and I am now running into the same bananapants pushback from my HR department. They, too, are pushing FMLA. And I keep telling them that, no, I do want to take a leave of absence, I want to and can work, but I just need some flexibility in where I do my job.

    I am job searching because I don’t think the ADA process will end well for me at my current company.

    1. GeorgeFayne*

      It is entirely possible that they are suggesting Intermittent FMLA, which essentially exists to provide flexibility in your work schedule with a medical approval on file. It would mean that – for example – if you needed extra leniency with your company’s attendance policy due to medical appointments or the nature of your condition, that you could not be fired for that/your job would be protected.

      At some companies requesting a specific schedule or flexibility is more easily handled and able to be maintained consistently when you have Intermittent FMLA on file.

      1. Accommodating*

        But intermittent FMLA is unpaid leave time. My ADA accommodation request is so that I can put in 40+ hours of work time each week, not get unpaid time off.

        1. GeorgeFayne*

          Sometimes it is unpaid leave time. Sometimes it is flexible time/the ability to make up time depending on your company’s policies and the request that is made. Intermittent FMLA primarily exists as a protection and a way to provide flexibility for employees who need it. A request to WFH on specific days could be included in an Intermittent FMLA request (in case of a flare-up – a request to either take time off or work from home with appropriate levels of communication, for example). It’s about allowing for accommodations around the internal policies of your workplace.

        2. goducks*

          When people say FMLA is unpaid they mean that the law doesn’t have a provision requiring the time to be paid, but it doesn’t require it to be unpaid, either. A lot of companies will not reduce pay or require PTO for intermittent FMLA for doctor appointments, especially for salaried exempt employees.

        3. Bumblebee*

          FMLA is job protection, not a certain kind of leave. You could be using sick time that morning to stay home for you appointment, or vacation, or unpaid, or working from home.

    2. ferrina*

      Once upon a time I had a CEO that liked to do bananapants things like that. She loved having control over strange, nitpicky things, but didn’t mind bending rules when it came to her pet projects or interests.

      If it’s a minimum of days (once a week or less), could you just….quietly start doing whatever you want? Who would notice? Who would come down on you? It might be something that as long as everyone has plausible deniability, everyone will look the other way. (so you can say “gosh, we talked about it in a conversation. I don’t remember when. And was I talking to Manager or Sr Manager? Or was it Director? Maybe VP, but probably not…. anyways, we had okayed this.”
      And yes, I’ve been known to quietly skirt rules a few times, and to quietly “not notice” when others skirted rules in a reasonable way.

    3. Harried HR*

      FMLA = Job Protection

      It has nothing to do with pay employees can be on FMLA and STD (Short Term Disability) at the same time with FMLA protecting their employment and STD paying them. If you are an exempt employee you need to get paid for any days worked. So if you are on Intermittent FMLA and take a 2 hours lunch for an appointment you will still be required to receive you full salary BUT your job is protected

      1. Middle of HR*

        This is what I’ve been internally yelling at LW’s HR. I’m honestly not confident that they know this, because the response to one HR rep saying it wasn’t their area (which is fine, some of us focus on payroll or training or whatever) buy turning that into a “denial” is absurd.
        I’m at a remote/ hybrid org now, but I’m previous in-office-all-the-time jobs this would be a manager level decision to allow flexibility a handful of times a year, unless the job was a largely physical one.

  5. Double A*

    I’m a little confused why LW jumped right to a medical accommodation? Did you start with a conversation with your manager about scheduling your WFH days to match with your appointment? You don’t mention a lot about your boss other than that they’re fine with you taking the appointment within putting in PTO which suggests they seem pretty reasonable. Why not start with your manager?

    1. ThatGirl*

      Yeah, I assume the LW wanted to do it “right” but this is exactly the kind of thing a good manager would just say “yep, just work from home those days” without any formal written anything in place.

    2. umami*

      Yes, this. I write policies and love to follow them, BUT. This question should have just gone directly to the supervisor, because like the HR advocate said, supervisors can flex the policy for for just this type of need. OP seems to have a good one.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      Did you start with a conversation with your manager about scheduling your WFH days to match with your appointment?

      I think the problem is in this section of the letter:

      But in certain circumstances (some recurring events I take PTO for a few times a year, and sometimes around holidays), I would be required to work in the office every other day of the week, including my appointment day.

      The letter writer doesn’t specify exactly how many days in the office the company is now requiring, but I’m assuming 3 or 4 days per week. On a normal week, I think the letter writer is able to schedule appointments on the WFH days and be in the office for the required in-office days.

      But there are a few times, maybe Thanksgiving week for example, where two of the weekdays are holidays (Thursday and Friday for US Thanksgiving). The LW can’t schedule the appointment on the holidays (presumably the doctor is also off work those days), so the appointment must be on one of the other days. But the LW can’t work from home, or else they would not meet the required 3 (or 4) days of in-office work. That’s what the letter writer wanted the accommodation to cover: not being in the office the required number of days on weeks when there are holidays or when the LW is taking PTO.

      1. bighairnoheart*

        Oh, this makes sense. I was trying to picture what OP was describing, but it wasn’t quite clicking. Thank you!

      2. Thistle Pie*

        Thank you for explaining this because I was not understanding the actual issue here which made following the post challenging. This makes sense now!

      3. Darlingpants*

        On but to me it’s extremely logical that if you are out for half a week, you should be able to go in half as much. If you’re supposed to come in 2/5 days then why on earth would you have to come in 2/2 instead of 1/2?

        1. LW*

          The policy was updated to explicitly not pro-rate for shortened weeks, whether shortened due to PTO, sick time, or company holidays.

          1. No Longer Working*

            So no one can take a week off M-F? You have to be in the office a certain # of days irrespective of PTO?

            1. LW*

              No, it just means that if you take part of a week off, the remaining days must be in office, no exceptions.

        2. Hlao-roo*

          If you’re supposed to come in 2/5 days then why on earth would you have to come in 2/2 instead of 1/2?

          Because management wants to see butts-in-seats. This thinking isn’t about logic or fairness, it’s about optics.

          1. Sunflower*

            Yeah it seems like it’s about maintaining a fiction that WFH says are less valuable than in office days.

          2. Yellow cake*

            I understand this – as a general approach – you’re in the office as default but can flex 1 day a week WFH. If you take leave during the week – then you don’t flex other days on top. Likewise if you need to be in the office 1 day a week you can’t just keep taking that day as leave. It’s providing 1 day/week of flexible working, not 20% etc.

            But I’d still expect some flexibility for the 3-4 days a year for medical appointments.

            I do wonder if the HR people understood it was 3-4 days per year, or if this looked like a request for weekly / biweekly exceptions. They recommended intermittent leave and LW declined to apply. They recommended informally working it out with boss as occasional exceptions are fine – seems boss understands differently.

            LW have you gone back to boss and said HR said occasional exceptions are fine – this is likely only to be 3 or 4 days a year are you ok with that? And then gotten it confirmed with HR if they say yes? Or gone back to HR (cc’ing boss) to say I spoke with Gertrude about managing this informally, but her understanding is that we need a formal accommodation on file for her to do that – so what are my next steps?

            I think this sounds so easy to resolve that HR is confused about where a formal disability accommodation fits in. I do have a disability – but it doesn’t impact me in the workplace in significant ways, and my workplaces have always accommodated me informally without paperwork. I think they’d be confused if I put something formal in to ask for the simple things I need without first having a boss decline to sensibly accommodate.

        3. birch*

          Yeah this was my problem too. I don’t have any useful advice for LW but this policy is what’s bananas.

      4. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        If there are holidays in the week surely the required number of days is reduced by the number of holidays?

  6. FormerTVGirl*

    I love workplace flexibility. It has had a significant impact on my life (in all great ways!), but something that this has led to recently is this … Big Brother-ification of work. Pre-pandemic, no one was tracking your badge swipe-ins to make sure you were coming to an office 3x/week for 8 hours a day. Now (ahem, big tech company name redacted), that’s increasingly common. No one wants to feel like mommy and daddy are checking in on them at work. To me, LW’s bananapants issue is just one more result of this weird overcorrection of pandemic WFH.

    1. A Penguin!*

      Oh, I’ve seen companies tracking badge ins decades before the pandemic. It wasn’t to see if you were there x many days, but if you were there at y hour. The oversight overreach is about the same.

      1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

        When I worked for a big-enough company in a big-enough building, they told us that the badge-in/out tracking was so they would know who was in the building when a disaster happens. It’s easier to stop looking for bodies if you know for sure that everyone has been accounted for. I choose to believe that this is true, while also knowing that draconian over-reach is often also true.

        1. RetailEscapee*

          Yes, I hate to say it but as an HR in a very large retail building I always had that days employee schedule grid on me, and was expected to use it if we ever evacuated or had an incidence of violence. I needed to know who was in my building.

          1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

            And surely given the nature of retail, you can’t know how many customers are in the shop, only staff?

  7. Pottery Yarn*

    Could the letter writer schedule their appointments first thing in the morning, take the appointment at home, and then drive into the office after the appointment was over? Are they going to be docked for doing a half day or three-quarter day at the office instead of the full day? It’s not the most ideal, but since the letter writer already said leaving the office to go home to take the appointment was possible, this seems like it could potentially work for those weeks where they don’t have any WFH days.

    1. umami*

      I like your suggestions, because OP seems a bit hyperfocused on getting an accommodation so that they don’t have to move their appointment times, but that’s not really how accommodation works. I get that it’s turned into more of an issue than they expected, but that’s more because of the approach OP used than whether they can be flexible with the WFH policy. The issues are separate issues.

      1. Rainy*

        I have a monthly telehealth appointment that I must attend, and luckily I can (and do) take it in the office if I need to, because I don’t have a lot of control over when it is. My provider is very very busy (and so am I) and basically any time our schedules overlap on the specified day is when I make the appointment. Even if I wanted to move it to the very beginning or very end of my work day, I wouldn’t be able to do that reliably because provider schedules are a thing.

        1. umami*

          Yes, that makes sense. I was just trying to say that since their focus is on maintaining their appointment time, they took a bit of a detour into complications instead of just asking their boss if they could work with them directly on their schedule.

      2. LW*

        To be clear, I’d be… well, not *fine*, but understanding, if HR had directly said to me, hey, we can’t accommodate your request because [reasons], but no one was willing to have an upfront conversation with me about it. I made my request for my preferred accommodation and just got dropped straight into a merry-go-round of responsibility-ducking.

        1. Sunflower*

          I agree, it sounds really annoying that they’re being so oblique about it; they want you to stop asking on your own instead of them having to actually tell you no.

        2. umami*

          Definitely! It sounds like, at least in the end, HR doesn’t need to be involved in your work schedule, so hopefully everything will work out fine for you.

  8. KHB*

    Have you tried asking the company (or just your boss) if they can provide you with a private space in the office for an hour so you can take your appointment from there (and bring your home laptop into the office with you on those days)? I don’t know much about the legality or the bureaucracy of this stuff, but if the key point is that they need to accommodate your appointments but not necessarily in the way you want them to, then it seems to me that the more options you can present them for ways you can make this work, the more likely it is that you’ll get one of them.

    1. Ole Pammy's Getting What She Wants*

      this is my question…..seems like the easiest solution? I work in a very small company without HR, so not apples to apples, but my coworkers regularly take telehealth appointments in our wellness room. on their work laptop no less! I’m aware this wouldnt fly at every place but this seems like the easiest solution.

    2. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      I can tell you, we would absolutely be able to provide private space, but because of security reasons we would not be able to allow someone to plug/connect their personal laptop into our internal network.

        1. KHB*

          Fair enough – that’s not an issue for us, so it didn’t occur to me. In any case, there might be other ways to be maximally flexible about what you need (to be in a private space with an internet connection for one hour a week during your healthcare provider’s hours), rather than necessarily working from home for the whole day on a particular day each week.

        2. Darlingpants*

          You don’t have a guest network? We have the same policy but my phone is connected to the guest network.

          1. LW*

            Not when my phone doesn’t get good service in the first place… it wouldn’t fix the problem.

            1. Observer*

              The guest network would not be cell service, but wifi that your laptop would connect to.

              We don’t allow non-work devices on our main network. But we do have a separate wifi band that guests can log in to.

              Find out if something like that exists. (One of the main reasons we set ours up is because auditors were asking for access. And you do NOT want to tick off your auditors!)

              1. LW*

                We do not have a guest network. This isn’t a public-facing facility, so the presumption is either you have a company device with company security that is allowed on the company network, or you have no reason to be using wifi in the building.

              2. Environmental Compliance*

                +100. We are a private company – def not public facing – but we do have a pretty solid guest network onsite all facilities. Works well for our customer visits, auditors, other inspectors, etc.

                I’ve also definitely taken telehealth meetings from my work laptop, fwiw.

            2. Ashley*

              Are there other networks that have better service in your building or parking lot? I am not sure if you can hot spot off of pre-paid phones but it is something to at least try. Otherwise how does your company handle sick time vs PTO? I know doctors appointments aren’t always sick time but a few afternoons a year it might be a temporary solution until the WFH policies settle back to exceptions.

    3. e271828*

      OP mentions driving to work. I would use my personal laptop tethered to my phone’s data to take the telehealth appointment in my car.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Might have better service outside, in the car. It’s worth taking a minute to check.

  9. Snarkus Aurelius*

    When I was pregnant, I had a horrible boss who never failed to remind me what she didn’t have when she was pregnant…in 1981!

    I asked if I could have a flexible schedule for doctor’s appointments during the week as I got closer to my due date and my OBGYN was literally across the street from my office. I also worked nights and weekends if needed. Boss said, “If you’re taking time off, even if it’s for a brief doctor’s appointment, then you need to take sick time for that or schedule your doctor’s appointments outside of business hours.” I don’t think she knows how doctors work!

    This was the woman who also said if I wanted to work from home, I’d need to take a sick day, but then she was confused when I told her I wasn’t going to take PTO if I was working.

    Some people are just that stupid. If instructions aren’t written down, their brains malfunction.

    1. Anon for this*

      I wrote a letter to Alison some time back about this exact situation–a boss who wouldn’t give me the flexibility to WFH on a single occasion because there were other people in the office who were abusing the WFH policy, even though I was always in the office when I was scheduled to be, arrived on time and stayed after most people left, etc.

      It was pretty frustrating how my manager didn’t seem to understand that if I took a sick day I was just going to shut my work laptop and be sick, not take a sick day just so I could work from home.

      (Also frustrating how some of the commentariat assumed I was acting in bad faith, obsessed with my work, a bad employee, etc.)

  10. ijustworkhere*

    This would be the time a good HR person would have said–that sounds like something you and your boss can work out between you.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        I can see that from the updates. I still maintain it makes sense to allow managers discretion to manage limited exceptions without formally involving HR.

      2. ijustworkhere*

        And if HR referred her back to the boss, then perhaps the boss would understand that HR is saying it’s ok for the boss to handle this. Sometimes bosses just need clarification from HR about what they can do and can’t do.

        1. Middle of HR*

          Yup, I’ve def had managers be surprised that they don’t need to run something through me, bc they’re used to much more bureaucratic management.
          “As long as there’s no performance or coverage issues here, you can approve this.” Usually they’re grateful and everyone moves on with their day!

  11. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    Seems like somebody is not doing the math here — your in-office days should be pro-rated to the number of actual days you are working that week. If you’re supposed to be there 3/5, but you take 2 days of vacation, then you should only need to be there 2/3.

    If you take the entire week off, are you somehow obligated to ‘make up’ those 3 days, so you’ve got to work 9/10 in the office over the following 2 weeks? That would be absurd, right?

    1. Ole Pammy's Getting What She Wants*

      in my office we have to be on mondays, then the rest of the week we get 2 days in, 2 from home. if we take PTO it comes out of our WFH days. If we take more than 2 days PTO it’s just a wash and you have to come in the other days, but it resets at the beginning of each week.

    2. Guest*

      Yeah, that’s just not how it is at a lot of companies. My company requires three in office days. Thanksgiving week you are required to be in M-W, unless you take PTO. It is frustrating, but fairly common.

    3. Daisy-dog*

      I am wondering if that’s written into the actual policy or if that’s the interpretation of the policy. Some policies leave a little space to let managers decide how to best manage their teams.

      1. LW*

        Originally the policy was vague, but the clarification that kicked off this whole saga was that there would be NO pro-rating for shorter workweeks.

        1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          Ugh. So stupid.

          They want you there 3 days out of 5. But what they really ought to want is you there 150 out of 250, with a level average +/- a small percentage.

          The bottom line on this is I think they want you in 100%, have grudgingly gone to 3/5, and are going to be petty and nitpicky about interpreting it.

        2. linger*

          That non-pro-rated WFH policy means the office population density will be forced to double on those weeks (because nobody will be allowed to WFH). If everyone can fit, that implies the company did not downsize its office space to fit the expected number of in-office staff after allowing WFH. Further, it makes it more likely the company is poised to cut WFH in future in order to wring full use out of its existing space.

          1. linger*

            N.B. after reading updates below — For that reason, it’s not quite as reassuring as it might be that the policy has had to be revised to be made slightly more flexible. (It now allows a certain limited number of discrepancies each month, which should be enough to accommodate OP’s appointment schedule).

  12. Uh Oh, HR*

    From an HR perspective, it honestly sounds like your HR department is too dang big, or at least too dang entrenched in their silos. Even if you want the protection of this being a formal medical accommodation, if you trust your manager enough to loop them in and make them part of the process that might go a long way in making a significant enough amount of noise to get HR to have a real discussion with you.

    If this happened in my company, it would be a fairly straightforward request, paperwork, formal discussion and documentation scenario. If we preferred that someone take FMLA over WFH for the appointments, we would make that clear and provide the paperwork. You can’t just tell someone ‘FMLA or whatever’ and then shrug and walk away!

    1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      Yep, they keep passing it to a different part of HR to the point I think what OP is asking for is getting lost in the mix.

      Perhaps you can get an in person meeting with the HR advocate and your manager and start from square one, especially if most of the communication has been done via email.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Right? Solo HR departments everywhere are boggling at the existence of an HR department so big as to be this ineffective.

      1. Uh Oh, HR*

        Oh to be able to say ‘not my area’ and hang up the phone. What indulgence!

        (…would I ever let myself, though? No.)

  13. WillowSunstar*

    The company I work for makes us take PTO for medical appointments, even telehealth. But we are hourly employees. The exception might be a telehealth appointment scheduled over the lunch break, would that be a possibility if you can adjust when you take your break? For example, 11 am or 1 pm instead of noon?

    1. Anonymous*

      I’m lucky enough to have gotten lunch appointment times for therapy (I used to do 11 a.m., now I got noon), but not every therapist has that time open and I’m not sure that would work with OP’s issues.

      I’ve had to do therapy while in the office (today included, actually) this summer because we have a mandatory two days in the office a week and for a few months we haven’t been forced to come in Fridays, so I’ve had to do makeup days on therapy days. At least I don’t have the Internet issues OP does and I can close an office door, but people are Very Interrupty here and the culture is that you need to let them interrupt you and the only way to stop that is to leave the building, so…I just have to deal with. At least I’ve managed to schedule my WFH days in fall to skip therapy day.

  14. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    Was going to suggest the informal accommodation. In my previous role, we allowed for 2 days/week telecommuting on a fixed schedule, with any adjustments on an as-needed basis, so long as they were not the norm, up to supervisor discretion. So, for example, if someone needed to work from home 3 days that week instead of 2 to accommodate personal appointments, so long as it didn’t otherwise cause an operational hardship, we would say that it could be supervisor discretion. (Also, if, for example, someone’s WFH days were Monday/Tuesday, that didn’t change if they were OOO W-Fr that week, UNLESS THEY WANTED IT TO. No one was forced to come into the office (unless there was an operational reason to require it) if they happened to be scheduled off on their other days that week. So that may be the difference here.)

    In my current role, we don’t have a formal telecommuting policy for *reasons*, but in a case like this we probably would consider an RA to accommodate this, with the caveat that we might need you to be flexible within a reasonable standard. (So, for example, if there was something that required all hands present and on deck on a Wednesday, and that was your usual day, we might request you make that change with reasonable notice if possible.)

    Tl;dr, I think your HR is just really struggling with how to handle this. Perhaps they are used to getting requests for FT wfh as an accommodation, and not sure how to handle one like this. From a business perspective, it seems to me all around your request as it stands makes the most sense for everyone, but there may be an RTO edict from on high they are struggling to enact which is gumming this up.

  15. umami*

    ‘Recently, our policy was refined to require a certain number of days in the office per week. Normally this would be fine with me — I prefer working in the office. But in certain circumstances (some recurring events I take PTO for a few times a year, and sometimes around holidays), I would be required to work in the office every other day of the week, including my appointment day.’

    OK. I think you might be under the impression that if you already have time scheduled off on a particular week that the new policy would require you to add in an in-office day. I don’t think that’s the case! I believe your HR advocate when they say work with your supervisor – if you are only scheduled to work 4 days in a week, or even 3, that doesn’t (shouldn’t) mean you have to add in more time in the office; i.e. next week we have Labor Day off. So if that was my usual in-office day, I would not have to come in a different, unscheduled day to make up for it. Same with a vacation day. Those days shorten your week! Hope that makes sense and is something you can discuss directly with your boss to alleviate any concern about those appointment days.

    1. LW*

      I clarified all the way up what the expectations would be. If I only work 3 days in a given week (which is my concern; I have regular events 3-4 times a year in which I take off Thurs & Fri) then under our policy the remaining 3 days of work must all be performed in office with no WFH.

      1. No Longer Working*

        Just curious here – You’re taking Thurs & Fri as PTO. Why can’t your medical appt take place on these days, cutting into your time instead of your employer’s time? This seems like it might be their perspective.

        1. LW*

          I would be helping to run a significant theatrical event on those days. Plus, it is not guaranteed my healthcare provider would be able to change my appointment time.

          1. Morning Coffee*

            So basically you are asked to sacrifice your volunteer work for the health care so your main job is not impacted by it. Until now I had no idea what you work place was doing, but sadly now this makes cruel sense.

    2. Ginger Baker*

      ^This is very dependent on the company, it’s the difference between “you have one remote day per week” and “you must be onsite four days per week”. My current company is the latter: if you take PTO one day in a week, that means you do NOT have a remote day that week (because the requirement is “fours days onsite per week”). I think it’s a terrible policy, but we are far from the only company to have it. :/

      1. LW*

        Exactly. This was a minimum number of days per week onsite, explicitly not pro-rated for shorter workweeks.

        1. Ginger Baker*

          I hate it for all the same reasons you do, and ours shows no signs of going away yet (for added fun, it only applies to certain departments, so lots of folks are not stuck under this ridiculousness where, for example, if you already took a remote day earlier in the week and now feel slightly under the weather – perfectly fine to work but better not to go to the office, or your water heater breaks and you need to be there for the repair to get done, you are instead required to take a PTO day since you have no remote day left. I hate it so very much.)

  16. Godbert*

    It is extremely weird to me how many people are blaming the OP for doing this wrong when the sixth line of the letter is:

    > My boss does not care about me taking this time; I’m salaried and work well over 40 hours/week anyway, so one hour of the day, appropriately blocked off on my calendar, is no big deal.

    If the company is on a hardcore RTO jag, they’re probably cracking the whip on policy adherence at all levels. Maybe OP’s boss even suggested going to HR to document the need to protect the block of time!

    1. bighairnoheart*

      I was also wondering if OP’s boss told them to go to HR. If so, OP please loop your boss in now to let them know how difficult the process has been. If your boss is even half way decent, they’re going to want to help you find a way around or through this.

      Also, full sympathy to OP if this was one of those situations where you left out one tiny detail of the story (boss’s involvement here) because you didn’t realize it was important, and that’s what all the comments focused on. It happens so often when people write in here, it’s wild!

      1. LW*

        Oh, I did loop him in. He was supportive (and confirmed to me that he’d worked with the same HR advocate before, and the guy was a condescending jackass to everybody, not just me) but couldn’t do anything until the policy was formally amended.

    2. LW*

      That is exactly what happened. My boss advised me to get a formal accommodation in place.

      If our tracking system flags noncompliance with the policy, it is escalated up 3 levels of management. I wanted to have something official in place BEFORE my great-grandboss gets a nastygram about me.

      1. Anon for this*

        You may want to write an email to all the HR people involved, telling them that you requested an accommodation, and now are requesting to engage in the interactive process. They have to do that with you. I’m so sorry you’re going through this.

    3. bighairnoheart*

      I should have refreshed before commenting. LW confirmed that their manager was the one who sent them to HR, so good instincts!

    4. Sally Rhubarb*

      Maybe OP’s boss even suggested going to HR to document the need to protect the block of time!

      LW clarified in one of their comments that that’s what they did. They approached their manager who kicked it to HR

  17. Observer*

    There are a couple of issues here.

    Firstly, the law does require an “interactive process”, which has absolutely not happened.

    For another thing, what the OP is asking for is to take appointments in appropriate privacy and without essentially being penalized by having to dip in to their vacation time by taking days off. And the company is legally required to provide that unless there is a real problem. Now, if they were to say “No, we can’t let you work from home, but we can insure that you will have access to a private room with really solid wifi”, then the OP would probably have to accept that, because that makes the call doable and private.

    The law does not require that a company give an employee their preferred accommodation. But if the employee can show that the offered accommodation would not work then that takes it off the table. And if the employee can show that the offered accommodation would have a real negative effect on them, the company needs to show why it cannot provide the requested accommodation.

    1. nnn*

      I don’t think the company is legally required to let the OP attend medical appts without dipping into their paid time off. It’s common to require people to use PTO for medical appts.

      1. Samwise*

        PTO isn’t the real problem. Being forced to be in-office on a day that OP has telehealth appt is the problem.

        1. nnn*

          Right but I don’t think the law prevents them from doing that the way the top level comment here said.

        2. Huh???*

          I think OP not wanting to use their PTO is the real issue here. For an in person appointment, you’d usually take off the appointment duration plus travel time. In theory, OP could just request off enough time to drive home, do their appointment, and drive back.

          HR is bumping it back to their supervisor because their supervisor is already letting them bend the rules. HR isn’t going to formally ensure an employee is allowed to bend the rules.

      2. LegoGirl*

        If I was working over 40 hours a week anyways, and had to take PTO for a doctor appointment, you better bet I’d only work EXACTLY 6.5 hours instead of the full 8+ that day! It would be a nice break.

      3. Observer*

        I don’t think the company is legally required to let the OP attend medical appts without dipping into their paid time off. It’s common to require people to use PTO for medical appts.

        Context matters. In this context, it’s not all that common, and it doesn’t matter. Because the OP’s position is such that flexing their time is possible and appropriate. Thus refusing to allow them to flex their time simply because it’s a standing appointment is highly questionable.

        I’m not a lawyer so I am not going to say that the OP *would definitely* win a case. But I am fairly certain that it’s a given that they are actually complying with the law so far.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I wouldn’t think so — if her condition is covered under the ADA (which it may or may not be), they wouldn’t normally be required to let her flex her time as long as they let her attend the appointment. Companies can have really rigid policies on hours, PTO, schedules, WFH, etc. as long as they give you the time you need for medical care under the ADA.

          1. Observer*

            I’m pretty sure that they would need to let her attend the appointment without penalizing her if it’s possible and practical. Making her take PTO is penalizing her.

            I don’t really think that the OP’s best bet here is to take the legal route, even if I’m right. I’m just pointing out that this place is not just “as” bananpants as they think, but *more* bananpants.

            And in any case, they absolutely do need to have an interactive process, which they have not done.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              You’re giving bad info here though! It’s very, very normal to be told you need to take PTO for medical appointments. If that’s their policy for other people, the ADA isn’t going to overrule that. The ADA would care if she didn’t have enough PTO for medical appointments and might expect that she be given additional time for them (assuming it didn’t cause undue hardship), but “making you use PTO for medical appointments” is common and considered reasonable.

            2. Uranus Wars*

              I have been working over 20 years and am in the a position for the first time in my career that doesn’t make me take PTO for medical appointments (and I have always been salaried). I enjoy the flexibility much more where I am but I definitely don’t thinks it’s penalizing, when requiring they take PTO for time out of the office. It’s actually pretty common across my peer group and we are all leadership level employees in different orgs.

              Penalizing her would be requiring her to use PTO and then to stay an extra 90 minutes to make up the time she was out on PTO.

        2. umami*

          But the employee’s position isn’t the prevailing one. It’s not a violation for a company to not offer the accommodation that the employee prefers, they just have to offer a reasonable accommodation. And if their policy is for medical appointments to come out of PTO, then … they have complied by allowing them to take the required time off, regardless of their WFH policy. There is no case for ‘I didn’t get what I asked for, so their accommodation is illegal.’

      4. WillowSunstar*

        We always used to have to take PTO in the before-COVID days for sure, since we physically had to be at the medical office. It’s only been in the past few years that telehealth has become very popular. Maybe if someone is a salaried employee it wouldn’t be an issue, but it absolutely is for hourly people. What’s worse is my employer makes us take time in 4 or 8-hour blocks. You can’t just schedule an appt at the very end or start of the day and only take 1 hour off anymore.

  18. Hiring Mgr*

    I’m confused by the part where OP says she’ll need to work in the office when she’s on PTO? Or does that mean she’ll need to “make up” the in office days she’ll have missed during the PTO week? B/c that would be weird too..

    1. LW*

      What I mean is if I take 2 days PTO in a week, the remaining 3 working days must be in office. I cannot WFH during any of them.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        This, inherently, is the heart of the problem. It’s a truly insane policy that doesn’t take into account the reasons why people might be WFH on the days they are.

      2. Hiring Mgr*

        If your boss can’t just authorize this on their own, I wonder if since these weeks (i think) are far enough in advance maybe it’s possible to switch the appt days

      3. Environmental Compliance*

        Out of morbid curiosity, what would they do if you requested a week off?

        Be interesting to see their take on that vs WFH. Because it makes no sense whatsoever.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You would have the week off.

          They’re saying that if you’re working, they want you in the office a minimum of X days per week. If there are days left over after that, they can be WFH.

        2. LW*

          If I took a whole week off, it is fine. If I took 3 days off and came into the office the 2 days I did work, it is fine. If I take 3 days off, came into the office 1 day, and worked from home 1 day, it is a policy violation.

          It is very dumb and they subsequently (after I sent this letter in) loosened the policy due to massive outcry, but at the time I was going through the circus that is what was presented.

          1. Observer*

            hey subsequently (after I sent this letter in) loosened the policy due to massive outcry,

            Does that mean that you should be OK now?

            1. LW*

              Theoretically yes. They formalized that it would take a certain number of violations in a 2-month period to flag, rather than flagging the first time we were out of compliance.

              I still don’t love it, but at least I should be generally okay.

              1. Michelle Smith*

                In the worst case scenario, you can still do exactly what you outlined in your letter – drive home, take the appointment at home, and drive back to work. It is inconvenient and stupid to make you do that, but it solves every one of the other issues under the current and previous iteration of the policy.

    1. Elsewise*

      My partner is disabled and has had several companies blatantly retaliate after they request accommodations. I’m going to tell them to start including that line in their future retellings.

  19. Employment lawyah*

    Why can you use “a reliable internet connection” from home, but only “a bad mobile connection” from your F100 company?

    Seems like the solution may be simpler than you ask: Get them to give you a private space for an hour, with a good internet connection; bring your laptop to work (or connect via fast WiFi on your phone) and get it done.

    Every company is set up to accommodate Internet connections for visitors–for meetings and the like. And every big company has a room somewhere.

    1. LW*

      Nope. We are not allowed to connect personal devices to the company internet. I’m not sure why you think “every” company lets visitors use the building wifi, but ours doesn’t (unless they’re visitors from within the company using company devices to do so).

      1. Observer*

        I’m not sure why you think “every” company lets visitors use the building wifi,

        I would never say “every”, but most companies *do* have a “guest” connection that allows people to use the wifi –> internet connection, without any access to other systems.

        It sounds like your problem may have been resolved, but if not, it’s worth asking of there is a “guest” wifi connection in the building.

        1. LW*

          There is not a guest wifi. We own the whole building, and there is only the secured network for company devices only.

        2. Glomarization, Esq.*

          most companies *do* have a “guest” connection

          I can truthfully say that my past half-dozen workplaces — law firms and otherwise — have not had guest wi-fi. Reasons included cost and legal liability (again, not just for the law firms). Obviously anecdotes aren’t data, but I’m not sure that I’d say confidently that “most” businesses maintain a guest wi-fi service.

      2. Employment lawyah*

        The vast majority of companies have some provision–even if it’s a standalone network walled off from the rest–to accommodate visiting consultants, trainers, etc.

        If you’re unlucky enough to be at one of the ones where this is not an option, then you might simply want to see if the company will buy you a cheap tablet (owned by the company and therefore not a “personal device”) which you can leave at work and use for your meetings. Or perhaps IT has an old laptop lying around (they often do.) That could also work: it doesn’t take much processor power to run a Zoom telehealth meeting.

    2. The Other Evil HR Lady*

      Sorry, I’m with LW here. Not all companies allow outside devices to connect to their WiFi (guest-type or otherwise) and I would imagine a F100 company would have even MORE security protocols to disallow that. Also, some devices (like mine, and I have the bestest/mostest/newest) dislike certain video platforms (mine hates Zoom, loves Teams, who the heck knows why). So, that’s just not an option sometimes.

      1. amoeba*

        I do think it’s stupid of the company to not have a guest WiFi (in combination with bad reception in the building), but that’s really nothing the LW can change!

        Would hate it though – we don’t have customers, but external collaborators, applicants, consultants, representatives from other companies, etc. do still visit and our basement is basically a bunker. If people had no way to connect to the internet, that would make life really dificult.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      My workplace wouldn’t accommodate any of that and OP spells out very specifically that theirs doesn’t either.

  20. Parenthesis Guy*

    If this a Fortune 100 company, then your boss isn’t going to be able to just informally ok your WFH, as you have discovered.

    At this point, you should talk to your manager (if you have a connection with your grand-boss or great grand boss, I might just go to them) tell them what’s going on, and ask them to get it sorted. They’ll hopefully be able to talk to those HR peoples managers, and hopefully get somebody competent to help you.

  21. BellyButton*

    “Hey, boss, I have a doctor’s appointment next week. Is it ok if I switch my WFH day from Monday to Tuesday?” *shrugs*

      1. Lexi Vipond*

        If I’m reading correctly between the lines of your letter, the issue is that if you have to work e.g. two days in the office each week, you have to work two days in the office even if those are the only two days you work that week.

        But since that’s an unusual way of doing things, and since you use a phrase to describe it that usually means something completely different (‘every other day’ to mean ‘all the days which are not an event I never specifically mentioned’ rather than ‘every second day’) then it’s not really surprising that some people are struggling despite doing their best to read the letter.

        1. LW*

          *shrugs* is still a really rude way to respond. I wrote in asking for advice, not to be treated like an idiot.

          1. Polly Hedron*

            Oh yes, LW, you have been extremely patient in your 35 other responses so far, so I was delighted to see your sharper response to this, the silliest post.

        2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          Jam yesterday, jam tomorrow, but never jam today….

          Even 150 years ago this was a mix-up people could make. In Through the Looking Glass (1872), the White Queen offers Alice a job and says the pay will be “Twopence a week and jam every other day.” Alice assumes she means “jam every second day” which is reasonable, but the White Queen clarifies “The rule is, jam to-morrow and jam yesterday–but never jam to-day.”

      2. darsynia*

        Just want to say thank you for being responsive and I’m sorry so many people think you skipped your boss and went straight to HR when your letter implies you did not do that & you’ve responded saying you didn’t!

        I actually wonder if the 2 month timeframe you spoke about re: the policy being loosened (violations only count if there’s X number in 2 months) is a concession to this whole policy being so weirdly rigid! I hope it was either ‘we’re trying to prevent Jo-Jo from abusing this and this ought to catch them out’ or ‘if I make a really technical-sounding ruleset about this maybe the uptight management will like it enough to implement.’ In any case, it sounds like you tried multiple options and are trying to go by the book, and I appreciate your frustration here, as well. Best wishes!

        1. LW*

          That is what I am hoping — besides my situation, many people in the office pointed out that this would screw over people who, for instance, take their WFH early in the week and then get sick later in the week.

          And yes, I am both a person who goes by the book as a general inclination, and I am also a member of some demographic groups that tend to be discriminated against, which means that I am very wary of unofficial exceptions being revoked after the fact and turned into performance problems.

  22. LW*

    It’s been a minute since I submitted this question, so I can answer some commenter questions and provide an instant update.

    #1 – for people saying I should have talked to my boss. I did. He recommended I get a formal accommodation in place with HR. We are a very large and very bureaucratic company, and because we are large and bureaucratic, individual managers have very limited discretion when it comes to making exceptions to formal company policy.

    #2 – Re: rigidity. I know there are options beside the one I prefer (WFH 1 day/week regardless of how many days I work in office) but it is not overly rigid of me to request my preferred accommodation and expect that if it doesn’t work for the company, they would be upfront and let me engage in a reasonable discussion of alternatives rather than get a bizarre runaround.

    #3 – the update. After a few more cycles of getting bounced around, and finding out through company scuttlebutt that the entire HR department was basically in hell with their hair on fire due to the announcement of this policy and the number of people protesting, the higher-ups amended our policy to officially encode the exceptions that the HR advocate had vaguely alluded to. Now, our attendance will not be flagged up 3 levels of the management chain unless we are out of compliance for a certain number of weeks in the past 2 months. So, since I’m anticipating only being out of compliance a handful of times a year, means there should be no problem. Apparently there were a lot of people who had problems with the policy, all on very reasonable grounds.

    In short: the policy as originally amended was stupid (it would, among other things, penalize anyone who worked from home and then subsequently had to call out sick later in the week), probably half the reason my attempt at accommodations was a nightmare was that every person I was talking to was spending their entire day dealing with employee panic over a badly-drafted policy, and in the end there was no problem at all. I’m frustrated that I had to go through so much aggravation and no one was able to tell me to just sit tight, changes were in the pipeline, but in the end, it turned out okay.

    1. bighairnoheart*

      Thank you for the update, LW! Sorry you had to deal with all of that, but I’m glad it resolved itself. I work for a large org as well, and I feel like every time there’s a WFH policy change, something like what you experienced happens. The policy is confusing and doesn’t account for all situations, people worried they’ll run afoul of it go to HR with questions and accommodation requests, HR can’t do anything because even they don’t know what’s going on, and then eventually the whole situation gets resolved somehow but only after 100s of employees and the HR team ran around like chickens with their heads cut off for a few weeks. Ahh the joys of bureaucracy!

    2. hellohello*

      Glad it all worked out for you here! It’s astounding how many offices seem intent on micromanaging their employees in-office time and then get shocked! just shocked!! when it has unforeseen consequences.

    3. Silence Will Fall*

      I wonder if your boss had you request formal accommodations so that HR would have a legitimate case to demonstrate to management that the new policy was too rigid/poorly written.

    4. Hlao-roo*

      Thank you for the clarification and the update! Glad the higher-ups finally saw (some) reason, sorry you had to go through such a rigmarole to get there.

    5. Ashley*

      On the upside you may have helped push the change as being on of many who were asking for a reasonable accommodation and your headaches helped push the scales towards modifying the policy.

      1. LW*

        I hope so! I know my boss was also very frustrated at how much nonsense I was dealing with. He genuinely didn’t give a flip how many days I worked from home, but unfortunately he could not grant me an exception. The downside of working for a big company is that there is very little room for discretion.

    6. Observer*

      I’m glad it worked out!

      But what a headache. I’m not exactly impressed with how it was handled, although I can see that at least some of it came from people being in a bad place themselves.

      On a separate note, I really want to compliment your writing. Some of your lines are **Mwah! Chef’s kiss**

    7. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Re: #2, in fact, not only is that a reasonable expectation, you are LITERALLY entitled to that via the ADA! It’s called the “Interactive Process” for a reason!

      Re: #3, that definitely sounds like hell to implement. Glad it got amended – I still think it’s a dumb policy (if they are worried about people taking advantage of a system, then deal with those on a case by case basis as necessary!), but at least this assumes there needs to be a pattern before taking action. Seems like hell to actually enforce, however.

  23. Alan*

    Maybe it’s just my employer but we’ve been told that we have to return, they’re keeping track of who’s missing when, etc, etc, etc but then my great grand boss told a bunch of us not to worry about it because the company is so afraid of losing people that they are absolutely not enforcing this, it’s all a show. and so of course people aren’t coming in and nothing’s happening to them. But I find that really annoying. Like just tell people the truth up front.

      1. darsynia*

        My guess? The problem employees who were not told ‘don’t worry’ lol. I bet it’s either a ‘enforcement will cull the bad actors’ or ‘scare away the ‘right’ people so we don’t have to lay them off.’

        I used up my daily allotment of scare quotes lol.

  24. GeorgeFayne*

    Just chiming in to note it is very possible that the HR minion who suggested the FMLA route may have meant Intermittent FMLA.

    Intermittent FMLA is not one big chunk of time you take all at once – if you have a condition that requires a large number of appointments or would benefit from a flexible schedule, Intermittent FMLA both allows you to take specific time and also helps to protect your job.

    A person with severe migraines that can flare up and incapacitate them for days can ask their doctor to sign off on Intermittent FMLA so that if they need to call off more times than allowed by their company’s internal policy that the reason is documented and their job is as protected as it can be.

    If a person who has a condition that requires a weekly appointment needs flexibility to attend those appointments (putting them out of policy again, possibly) Intermittent FMLA can be a safeguard to help the employee attend the appointments without repercussions due to any policies.

    And Intermittent FMLA is on file for as long as it is needed (if I remember correctly it needs to be re-requested/physician signed for yearly) without it being tied to a specific boss or even the employee’s current position.

    So I agree, this seems like a company where too many HR cooks are in the kitchen, but the idea of a formal Intermittent FMLA accommodation is not a bad idea for this specific situation.

    1. Nightengale*

      I’m not clear how intermittent FLMA would have helped? Intermittent FMLA would protect the LW’s job if they took PTO during the time of the appointment or took the whole day off.

      But they can’t take the appointment feasibly from the office. And they don’t want or need to take the whole day off in those circumstances, just to do their job (outside the 45 minute or whatever appointment) from home an extra day a few weeks a year.

  25. Coin Purse*

    I think the word “guarantee” is a likely offender. My former boss would agree to just about anything informally but if you looked to get it locked down in writing, that wasn’t going to happen…with her or HR.

  26. Coverage Associate*

    Oh! “Every other day of the week” means all the days OP works that week, not a MWF then TT then MWF… schedule, which sounds awful.

    I am actually glad to see a variety of hybrid approaches in the comments here. I will soon be facing a similar situation to OP, and had only heard of core in-office days of TWT, which means doctors’ appointments are going to be hard to get Monday and Friday.

    I do wonder if OP would get a better result if they put the request in an email. There seems to be some talking past each other in the story. If it’s only a handful of days a year, I would identify them in the email after explaining generally. Eg, “This will next become an issue Thanksgiving week, when I would otherwise be required to be in the office on Wednesday, but request the accommodation of working from home.”

    1. LW*

      Right, other as in “every day not previously referenced.”

      I speak an unusual dialect of English that needs a lot of code-switching, and sometimes I don’t do it perfectly.

      1. Polly Hedron*

        LW, all of your English that I see here is perfect (better yet, you are a gifted writer!) and most commenters understood exactly what you meant, knowing that “every other day” has two meanings. See the 1966 song, “Monday, Monday”:

        Every other day of the week is fine
        But whenever Monday comes, you’ll find me cryin’ all of the time

  27. Silence Will Fall*

    I wonder if your boss had you request formal accommodations so that HR would have a legitimate case to demonstrate to management that the new policy was too rigid/poorly written.

  28. Cat on a Keyboard*

    It sounds like LW’s schedule is only messed up a few times a year. Considering they survived prior to 2020 without these appointments, and describe them as “a massive improvement in my life” rather than life-saving, I’m thinking it’s something more like therapy or acupuncture than something like blood transfusions where your life is at risk if you miss a week.
    IMHO LW’s best options are to miss their appointment or reschedule with their provider for a WFH day that wouldn’t be their normal appointment day 2-3 times a year. HR is taking everything too by-the-book, so just leave them out of it.

    1. Lily Potter*

      Well….unless they’ve figured out a way to do acupuncture with a telehealth appointment, I don’t think that’s the case here LOL.

    2. Observer*

      IMHO LW’s best options are to miss their appointment or reschedule with their provider for a WFH day that wouldn’t be their normal appointment day 2-3 times a year

      Based on what the OP said, the rescheduling is simply not possible.

      As for telling them that they should just skip their appointments because their “massive improvement in my life” is not REALLY important as opposed to something like transfusions . . It’s hard for me to find words. But really, the idea that only life and death stuff has standing is pretty toxic.

      And by the way, that’s not the legal standard for accommodations, either.

      1. Jackalope*

        Yeah, I’ve heard from many people who can survive without specific interventions but they are in horrible pain until they can go back to the doctor, or can’t sleep, or risk triggering a flare which can last who knows how long (potentially months). Not dying is a good minimum bar but is not at all the only thing that matters.

    3. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      maybe she didn’t have the condition prior to 2020. I’m trying not to hiss at the we should never improve anything ever attitude here

      1. Martin Blackwood*

        Or for whatever reason it got worse in the last three years! Pandemic stress, man. And really, for some people in some circumstance, missing a week of therapy at the wrong time could mean a massive flare up of whatever symptoms made them go to therapy in the first place. It’s not a “nice to have” for some people, it’s a necessity.

    4. Cat on a Keyboard*

      Fair points, all. I didn’t mean to imply that any health supports short of preventing immediate death aren’t worthy… I certainly do not wish LW any harm or to compromise their well-being. I’ve never worked in a place /had a telehealth situation that was as regimented as LWs appears to be and it seems like a situation that calls for a workaround.

      1. RetailEscapee*

        I went to rehab remotely while working a full time remote job.
        It was absolutely not something I could miss or reschedule.
        It was absolutely in the best interest of the company to give me that flexibility so I was performing at my best level.
        Years later I’m still sober and I’m kicking ass at that job.

  29. Kim*

    Instead of working from home for the full day, could you get permission to schedule your appointment first thing in the morning and go to the office a little later on those days? They may see the request to work from home for the full day as an excuse to avoid coming into the office but might be willing to allow a little flexibility in start time.

    1. LW*

      I am salaried and don’t have a formal start time, so that would be my next best option if the WFH policy exception was denied. It wouldn’t be my preference because it wouldn’t be the most efficient use of my time, but it would be doable if everything went to maximum rigidity.

      Fortunately, that didn’t end up happening, but in general, yeah, that’s an option. It would just result in me missing 2.5 hours of my workday instead of 1 hour.

      1. Observer*

        It would just result in me missing 2.5 hours of my workday instead of 1 hour.

        This is a classic example of how overly-rigid policies can really have unintended and unexpected costs.

        1. Jackalope*

          My favorite story about this (from the comments section on this blog if I remember correctly) was an employer who decided to start requiring that sick leave be used in half or whole day chunks only. Previously employees would just use wherever time they needed, say an hour or two, and then go into work. Apparently the employer thought that they would drain employees’ sick leave or make them less willing to use it or whatever. Instead everyone just started taking the whole four or eight hours (depending on the appointment and which was the better option). When the managers asked why people were suddenly gone so long for doctor appts they said that they were using the new required half or whole days. It caused staffing issues – apparently the managers had assumed that employees would willingly give up 4 or 8 hours of PTO while only using 2-3 and working the rest – and eventually they revoked the new rule.

          1. Sleve*

            Yep! If I’m losing half a day of my PTO for this appointment, you can bet your bottom I’m going to be using the rest of the afternoon to also go to my bank, my hairdresser, and the neat little coffee bean roastery that mostly supplies cafes but also sells 1kg bags out of a tiny side window between 3 and 5 on weekdays.

          2. WillowSunstar*

            Our PTO is like this. They don’t group it by sick or vacation, it’s just all PTO. And it is bananapants. Means you have to take a whole half day for a one-hour appointment you could have just scheduled at say, 4 pm if you normally leave at 5 pm. The company I work for has not revoked the rule, but at least they are encouraging WFH, so those with telehealth appointments can just do it over a lunch break.

  30. Friendly Office Bisexual*

    What is with this sudden drive that is making companies require ADA accommodations to WFH? Pre-pandemic, it was never an issue to just tell my manager I was working from home, but now there’s a new HR requirement in place that requires all employees to get an ADA certification form signed by their physician if they want to work from home. To me it’s totally bonkers for the type of work that can easily be done on a laptop at home.

    1. Lily Potter*

      I suspect that the reason is: a) companies want employees back in office, b) employees want to continue to WFH, and c) companies are getting all kinds of WFH requests for vague medical reasons. Rather than employers trying to figure out whose medical accommodation is legitimate and whose is an overinflated rationale just because the employee want WFH, employers are throwing the works back into the medical/ADA bucket. I guess when you’re a huge company dealing with hundreds of “but I NEED to continue a WFH arrangement for X medical reason”, it makes bureaucratic sense.

      1. Quill*

        And the companies often don’t understand that legitimately more of their employees may have medical problems – or have finally had the ability to get medical treatment for existing problems – in the interim.

        (Or that if they could at all be trusted not to discriminate medically they may get less vague requests.)

        1. WillowSunstar*

          Well, also not all medical issues fall under the ADA. For example, menopause is made easier by WFH but the US does not consider it a disability because it’s something women go through naturally.

      2. WillowSunstar*

        They don’t want their office physical buildings to be wasted. IMHO they shouldn’t have bought such a big building then. But most office buildings were probably bought back in the days where managing by walking around was still a thing.

  31. Alex*

    Like most drama in the world, this one is entirely self-created. There was zero reason to involve HR and “accommodations.” Just tell your boss you have a standing medical appointment every X day at X time and will be unavailable during that period and will need to work from home on that day. Call it an extended lunch break or whatever. Provide documentation if they ask for it. If they insist on some kind of office presence, split the day between WFH and office with the WFH hours aligning to the appointment.

    If the boss is as relaxed as it sounds and is focused on results rather than hours, this shouldn’t have been a problem and there was no reason for anyone else to know, let alone get involved.

    1. LW*

      I asked my boss about it. He told me to contact HR. He is not allowed to make unilateral exceptions to company policy.

    2. Margaret Cavendish*

      Completely disagree that this is “self-created drama.” I work in a similar organization to LW’s, and as a manager I’m not allowed to approve exceptions to the hybrid policy. Office attendance is tracked using our swipe cards, and reported to the CEO on a weekly basis. So my employee who is WFH has been Officially Noticed. I had to go through the whole ridiculous accommodations process, including the denial and the appeals, in order to get to the workaround.

      Now, would I have gone through all of that knowing that I would have to work around it anyway? Probably not. But hindsight is 20-20 and all that – we don’t know how things will turn out until after we’ve already done them. Especially in LW’s case, where (a) they were trying to do the right thing, and (b) the request seemed completely reasonable – LW probably assumed the response would be straightforward. They didn’t know there would be a circus, until after the circus had already started.

  32. Margaret Cavendish*

    I have a similar situation in that I have an employee who clearly needs to WFH, and we’ve gone through the accommodation process and been told he can’t. So our solution is that we’re “working on an accommodation.” As in, he works from home as long as he needs to, and if anyone asks, well – that pesky paperwork is taking SUCH a long time!

    So I would say the same for you, LW – just do what you need to do, and if anyone asks, tell them you’re “in the process” of getting it approved. Bureaucracies being what they are, it’s pretty likely no one will notice or care, especially if your manager is on board. Good luck!

    1. Loony Lovegood*

      I love you very much for this, excellent managing.

      May that pesky paperwork just never come in, gosh darn it!

  33. Orange You Glad*

    I initially thought this should just be an arrangement worked out with the boss but I saw in other comments LW’s boss is following the policy to a t and is the one that started the HR accommodation dance. At this point, I think this is a situation where it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission. LW mentioned this would only be an issue a few times a year. I would just work as normal until you get to a week with a conflict and deal with it as it arises. What would their boss do if 6 months from now they just said they needed to WFH the day of the appointment?
    I know what I would do with my direct reports. I’m frustrated for the LW that their boss doesn’t have their back over a really simple accommodation.

  34. MillennialHR*

    LW – I work in HR, I have for many years, and this is bananas. If you submitted the proper paperwork, this would (probably) not cause an undue hardship on an employer and seems like something reasonable that the company should be able to do.

    HR is a balance between what is right and what is lawful and when those intersect, I celebrate (because, sometimes, they do not). This is one of those times I would celebrate.

  35. teensyslews*

    Well if they won’t let you officially WFH on those days but you need to take your appointment from outside the office… I guess on those days they get to lose all that working time to your appointment travel! Just drive back and forth (with some padding time of course) and when they ask say you need to travel to the appointment and if you have to be in the office that exact day there’s nothing you can do.

  36. gazelle*

    For a while I lived somewhere where I didn’t have a private place at home to take a virtual medical appointment, but my therapist was only doing telehealth due to the pandemic. We ended up doing my appointments via phone call, rather than video appointment, so that I could go for a walk while I talked with her and could use the cell network, rather than data. I wonder if this could be a stopgap solution for OP if these appointments are of a similar nature. It’s easier to find a private place for a phone call than a video appointment in my experience.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, I agree that being able to switch to a phone might be best. I did phone appointments previously. Not sure if the provider allows it for security reasons though if they have some kind of special portal they have to use.

    2. LW*

      Unfortunately, the service my provider uses for telehealth interacts really badly with my phone even when I’m somewhere with good signal. The connection constantly drops, the portal fails to load at all, it shows me as offline even when I’m waiting for the appointment to start… etc.

  37. Peter B*

    My current role is in accessibility, not employee accommodations, however I did do that in a previous job. I disagree that the company isn’t required to make this accommodation for you. Remember that an accommodation is an individual arrangement to modify a workplace policy or practice. Assuming that your medical condition meets the legal definition of disability, this is a very easy accommodation to approve. Could they in theory provide you another effective accommodation, sure, but it is likely to be more disruptive than what you are asking for. I would ask to talk to the ADA Coordinator or accommodations lead within your HR team and re-explain the situation and ask them to work with you to come to an arrangement. if they need to pull in others from other parts of the HR team that’s fine but they should facilitate that conversation with you.

  38. starsaphire*

    LW, I am so glad to see in your update that this “policy” is being at least somewhat rescinded. This would indeed drive me up the nearest bananapant tree. I do hope things work out for you!

    Alas, I’m worried that my company is headed in this direction too. We’re currently doing the 3/5 hybrid, and there’s a lot of buzz about WFH abuse floating in the air – and although my manager is awesome and gives us plenty of flexibility, there’s no guarantee that will last forever.

    p.s. In my dream ideal world, there would be a checkbox in the Reply screen making people attest to the fact that they actually read the letter *and* checked for updates before responding… :)

    Best of luck to you, LW!

  39. Silly decisions...*

    Slightly off topic but kind of not…I do not understand companies forcing staff who can WFH to come back to the office. My role requires me to be on site, which I actually prefer as I cannot focus on work when I am at home, but there are several people I work with who WFH full time with the very occasional exception of major project presentations (usually held off site at the mine) & some will come in for the end of month BBQ the company puts on for staff.

    These people are meeting & exceeding their KPIs & my office overheads are lower as we have been able to move into a smaller space, utilities are lower (heating/cooling a smaller space), & we no longer have to pay for a large parking area for the staff as the 20 spaces at the new premises are more than sufficient for the staff who still come in.

    1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      From my understanding, commercial leases are multi-year affairs so there are probably companies STILL stuck in 10-year leases they started in 2015.

      1. Silly decisions...*

        The lease will not cost them any more if they allow people to remain WFH though? It seems like if they are using this as an excuse they are punishing their staff for their poor business decision.

    2. LW*

      I fully agree. I like working in the office (though I also like having the option to WFH when needed for my appointments or other one-off situations), but I also like it when my coworkers who *don’t* like being in the office aren’t forced to be there!

  40. Lauren*

    Just to be super clear here, are you certain the policy even applies to weeks where you have scheduled PTO or a holiday? If the policy is to be on the office 4 days a week (for example) and you have 2 days of PTO that week, you obviously wouldn’t be expected to be in the office for 4 days because you’re not even working 4 days. Without seeing the policy it’s hard to know if you’d be expected to go in for 3 days even if one of those days is your usual wfh day.

    1. LW*

      Yes, I am very certain. The policy was originally vague on short weeks, then it was clarified to state that there would be no pro-rating the 3-in-office requirement even for short weeks, which is when my boss told me to go to HR to get my accommodation solidified.

      1. umami*

        OK, I officially change my stance to … this is bananapants! It makes little sense to change someone’s work schedule just because there is an absence or holiday that week, and obviously no operational need or the actual work days would be prescribed. and I would push back on that if I were in a leadership position there.

  41. Huh???*

    I might be missing something – but why couldn’t you have simply rescheduled therapy on the few weeks a year your schedule conflicted? Or switched to working two days in office in a row?

    1. Anonymous*

      (a) Sounds like it may be more than a few days a year.
      (b) Sounds like OP can’t switch to avoid therapy, more or less
      (c) Rescheduling therapy tends to not work since therapists have regular appointments booked. My last therapist was literally never, ever able to reschedule when she had to miss a week.

      1. CzechMate*

        Those were my thoughts. Sounds like it needs to be once a week, and rescheduling can be VERY hard. But I also found myself wondering if OP had even asked their provider if that was possible…not the point of the letter, obviously, but could be a simple way to avoid this headache.

    2. Julz*

      I waited four months on my therapist’s wait list. When I was finally offered a time, it was crappy. I took it. Because the alternative was to wait another who knows how many months for another slot to open, and who could say if it wouldn’t turn out to be an even worse time. Therapy in 2023 is not something you can scootch around like a nail appointment.

  42. Aquamarine*

    To me what’s bananas is that formal accommodations would be required for something like this. It seems like a manager should have the discretion to approve this kind of thing. Yes, HR is being unhelpful, but it doesn’t even seem like this should be HR territory.

    Anyway, I see things worked out for the LW, and I’m glad of that. It’s too bad it had to get so complicated.

    1. nnn*

      This is something I’m seeing a lot as employers try to force employees back in the office and are increasingly inflexible about it: things that are effortless and unnoticeable when you’re working from home require formal accommodations if you’re rigidly forced into the office.

      I know people who are being required by their employers to go through formal accommodation processes in the office for issues that they would solve at home by flicking a lightswitch, or sitting in a different seat for a bit. Or doing literally nothing, because their home is set up to meet their needs

  43. EA*

    I think this is a case where being “on top of things” backfired, and the OP should’ve just waited to see how the roll out went before requesting formal accommodations. I’d recommend a wait and see approach for a lot of policy changes actually, because things often get adjusted in the process. Unless the boss brought it up as a concern (doesn’t sound like that), and the first issue with the new policy wouldn’t happen for months, why not wait and see instead of getting into a formal situation with HR? And I see how it’s easier to approve a request for a specific day next week vs. a hypothetical situation for an undetermined number of days per year months in advance.

  44. AccommodationLikelyNotTheRightAvenue*

    I am disabled and have to work from home 100% of the time or very close to it (predating the pandemic) and I’ve never worked or interviewed anywhere that did or would have handled this through their accommodations process. In some cases I’ve had it written into my offer letter for some limited protection, but in general it’s something I have to bring up and ensure is acceptable during the interview process and if the company were to try to declare I had to go into an office later I would remind them of the agreement but if push came to shove I’d probably be out of luck.

    Given that the formal accommodations process typically requires a medical professional to explain what your condition is and why you need the accommodation and the dr in this case isn’t mandating that you take the calls from home (just as they don’t technically tell me I have to work from home but it’s the only way I can physically handle it) I see no way it could functionally work with/qualify for the accommodations process.

    1. LW*

      My healthcare provider did fill out paperwork to state that working from home was the preferable accommodation to facilitate my care, for reasons of reliable connection, minimized risk of missing appointments, etc. A coworker of mine who is recovering from surgery got a similar accommodation to work from home so she can take care of physical therapy exercises throughout the day that would be hampered by being in office.

      Getting it written into an offer letter isn’t realistic since this isn’t a new job I’m taking on, this is a job I already have been at for some time.

  45. Slaw*

    Lots of valid points here in the comments and by Alison, but I guess what I am missing is – if they don’t want to let you work from home that specific day, what is preventing you from rescheduling your appointments to one of the days that you do work from home? Why does it have to be that one specific day? I get provider’s schedule may be tight, but it sounds like this is something that is coming in the future, not that’s already here. I feel like it’s worth at least asking the question to your provider, “Beginning Week X, my work schedule changes and it would be much easier for me to do these appointments on Day A or Day B, can we find anything that works on those days?”

    Honestly, I would have started there before even bringing up changing your WFH days with your job. If the provider says no, that’s not possible – sure, then loop in your boss and see if they can work out an exception for you. I feel like you drastically overcomplicated this.

  46. Raida*

    personally I’d just have a quick meeting with my manager, state my preferred days at home, and ask if we need to put in writing a remote working arrangement.

    dont worry about HR, now that u know they aren’t useful

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