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Legal Insider: An Insight Into Reasonable Accommodations for Employees in Virginia

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John V. Berry and Kimberly H. Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Plaza America in Reston that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

Many Virginia employees have come to us to discuss the reasonable accommodation process when they develop a medical condition or disability that requires a change in their duties or other workplace adjustments. We advise and represent private, federal, state and county sector employees throughout Virginia in reasonable accommodation cases.

What is a Reasonable Accommodation?

A reasonable accommodation is an employee’s request to modify their employment conditions, assignments, hours, etc. to allow them to continue working in a position despite having a disability. Notably, the reasonable accommodation process applies to both employees and job applicants in all states, including the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Primarily, under federal law, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which applies to most employees, encompasses and outlines reasonable accommodations. More specifically, federal employees are also covered under the Rehabilitation Act, which incorporates similar protections as the ADA.

According to these laws, employers are required to engage in the reasonable accommodation process with qualified employees unless it would create an undue hardship for them.

In Virginia, many employees are also covered under the Virginians with Disabilities Act, which applies to most employers. Under both the federal and state laws, the goal of the reasonable accommodation process is to enable employees with disabilities the opportunity to enjoy an equal opportunity in employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) provides guidelines for reasonable accommodation requests.

Requesting a Reasonable Accommodation

The most typical type of reasonable accommodation involves an employee that has developed a medical condition or disability that requires some modifications or adjustments to their working arrangements.

Usually, an employee will ask for a reasonable accommodation by approaching their supervisor or human resources department, depending on the employer, and asking for one. Accordingly, a request for reasonable accommodation can be either formal or informal. For instance, depending on the employer, some have created specific forms covering reasonable accommodation requests; whereas, other employers simply involve informal verbal discussions between the employee and their immediate supervisor.

Regardless, once requested, there is usually a discussion about the reasonable accommodation requested. The discussion between an employer and employee is often called the “interactive process,” which simply means that the employer must engage the employee in attempting to resolve the reasonable accommodation request.

This process does not mean that an employer has to grant every accommodation sought (or even the specific one requested by the employee); rather, the employer is only required to make a good faith effort to accommodate a disabled employee.

There are far too many examples of reasonable accommodations to list here as they significantly vary based on an employee’s specific disability and their particular needs. However, the Job Accommodation Network provides examples of reasonable accommodations regarding specific medical conditions.

Conclusion

When an employee in the Commonwealth of Virginia needs to request a reasonable accommodation due to a medical condition, it is important to obtain legal advice and/or legal representation. Our law firm is ready to advise and represent Commonwealth of Virginia employees in the reasonable accommodation process.

Should you need assistance in this process, please contact us by telephone at 703-668-0070 or through our contact page. Please also visit and like us on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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Off-Market Source: Oct. 11

Every week the Eli Residential Group scours our network for off-market and pre-market homes to give home buyers and investors access to properties they can’t find anywhere else online. If you are interested in a property you see here or have specific needs you cannot find on the market, please reach out to us at [email protected] to talk to a real person, not an automated response system.

If you are a homeowner, investor, builder or agent who would like your off-market or pre-market property featured for a half million local readers on PoPville, ARLnow or Tysons Reporter, please email us at [email protected].

Potomac Yard Townhouse w/ 2-car Garage
700 Block of Annie Rose Avenue

Description: 3 bedroom, 3.5 bath townhouse with rooftop terrace. 2-car garage, 2,500 sq. ft., built in 2012, covered front porch. Walk to huge playground, courts, Old Town and Pentagon City. Updated and move-in ready.
Price: Upper $800’s
Courtesy of RLAH Real Estate

To view all of our off-market or pre-market properties, visit the off-market section of our website. We add new properties every week.

The Eli Residential Group is a real estate team with RLAH Real Estate, (703) 390-9460, operating in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland. Contact the team directly at [email protected].

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Ask Val: Winter House Hunting

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Val Sotillo, Northern Virginia-based Realtor and Falls Church resident. Please submit your questions to her via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: We are ready to buy a house in the upcoming months. Should we wait until spring to start house hunting or should we consider buying a house during the winter?

Answer: Winter can be a great time to buy a house! Not only do you get to test that the heating system works well, but buyers tend to have the upper hand over sellers in the negotiations. There will be fewer buyers in competition during the winter, less chances of multiple offers for the same property and the low demand may work in your favor.

Sellers who have their homes on the market during the winter may be more motivated to negotiate and willing to make a deal. In Northern Virginia, the winter market generally runs from November through January and is defined by increased buyer leverage, less contract activity and fewer new listings.

Keep An Open Mind And Open Schedule

You can buy in the winter as long as you keep an open mind.

Landscaping is not very colorful during the cold months, and depending on the weather you may not be able to perform an inspection in certain areas of the house (i.e. an inspector won’t go on an icy, dangerous roof), but you can make a list of those items and get them inspected as soon as the weather allows it.

Also, you will need to be flexible with time given that holidays, less daylight hours, and extreme weather may delay property access, inspections, title work, appraisal, etc. But hey, I like to believe that people are nicer during the holidays and everyone is willing to work it out!

Buy In The Fall/Winter If…

  • You’re a bargain hunter
  • What you like is priced just outside of your budget
  • There is a regular supply of homes you like
  • You have a flexible schedule

Wait For The Spring/Summer If…

  • You have specific, hard-to-find criteria
  • You value the perfect home over a great deal
  • Your purchase is contingent on selling your current home (requires additional conversation)
  • If you’re moving to a new school district and don’t want to move your kids in the middle of the school year

It’s Harder To Find What You Want

But, that doesn’t mean you can’t find something great in the winter. It will just take a little more effort. The chart below shows the number of newly listed homes in Northern Virginia each month, for the past three years. You will see that the number of newly listed homes for sale is significantly lower from November through January.

Pickings Are Slimmer But The Prices Are Too

The table below is made up of sales in Tysons, Mclean, Vienna, Northern Falls Church and Eastern Fairfax from 2013-2017, except for new construction, and is based on the month properties went under contract, not the month they actually sold (homes generally sell 30-60 days after they go under contract). The cells highlighted in green are the most favorable for buyers. Here are some key highlights from the data table:

  • Buyers have the most negotiation leverage in December
  • Seasonality has a much lower impact on condos than it does single-family homes and townhouses
  • The market turns favorable for buyers starting in August and usually continues that trend until January/February (tends to be weather-dependent)

So, which season is the best for home buying? The best time to buy a house really depends on what makes the most sense for your situation. If you’re on the fence about buying this winter or not sure if you have time to prepare yourself to make a purchase, send me an email at [email protected] to discuss your options and put a strategy in place.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. I hope to hear from you soon.

Val Sotillo is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, 703-390-9460.

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Off-Market Source: Oct. 4

Every week the Eli Residential Group scours our network for off-market and pre-market homes to give home buyers and investors access to properties they can’t find anywhere else online. If you are interested in a property you see here or have specific needs you cannot find on the market, please reach out to us at [email protected] to talk to a real person, not an automated response system.

If you are a homeowner, investor, builder or agent who would like your off-market or pre-market property featured for a half million local readers on PoPville, ARLnow or Tysons Reporter, please email us at [email protected].

Downtown McLean Townhouse
McLean Crest Community

Description: 3 BR/4.5 BA/2,400 sq. ft. townhouse with 2-car garage, built in 2006 in McLean Crest community. Walk to downtown McLean shops and restaurants. Within Franklin Sherman ES, Longfellow MS, and McLean HS boundaries. Currently tenant occupied with option to purchase with tenant or purchase at end of lease.
Price: Mid $900’s

To view all of our off-market or pre-market properties, visit the off-market section of our website. We add new properties every week.

The Eli Residential Group is a real estate team with RLAH Real Estate, (703) 390-9460, operating in Virginia, Washington, D.C. and Maryland. Contact the team directly at [email protected]

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Ask Val: Welcome to Ask Val!

This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Val Sotillo, Northern Virginia-based Realtor and Falls Church resident. Please submit your questions to her via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Welcome to our neighborhood real estate blog! I’m very excited to be part of this community and cover all sorts of topics regarding residential real estate and the market place. I’m here to answer your questions in a very honest, informative and hopefully fun way (who says real estate is boring!?).

Before we get started with our first Q&A, a bit about me — I moved from Peru to the D.C. area in 2004 and I’ve been in property management and real estate ever since. Falls Church resident, dog and cat lover, Redskins fan, new restaurant explorer and Zumba instructor. Some of my favorite places near Tysons:

I have been collecting some great questions that I plan to answer over the coming weeks, and I can’t wait to hear yours also. If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. I hope to hear from you soon.

Val Sotillo is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington D.C. and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, 703-390-9460.

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Legal Insider: Thin Line Between Social Media and Employment

This is a sponsored column by attorneys John Berry and Kimberly Berry of Berry & Berry, PLLC, an employment and labor law firm located in Northern Virginia that specializes in federal employee, security clearance, retirement and private sector employee matters.

By John V. Berry, Esq.

One of the most evolving areas of employment law today is how off-duty social media use is increasingly affecting employees and their employment. One of the most common misconceptions about employee off-duty social media use is that it is somehow protected by law and cannot subject an employee to discipline. In particular, there is a belief that the First Amendment protects speech made outside of work on social media.

This isn’t the case. The First Amendment generally does not protect this type of speech for private sector employees and only rarely does for public sector employees.

Recent Examples in the News

Some recent examples of the connection between social media and employment have made the news recently. In one example, a private school administrator was placed on suspension for making inappropriate comments to Attorney Michael Avenatti on Twitter. A second example involved a Dean at Catholic University who this week was suspended for making comments about a female complainant related to the Kavanaugh U.S. Senate Supreme Court proceedings on social media.

Few Protections for Employee Use of Social Media

We have seen similar kinds of social media use issues arise in workplace termination cases far more frequently these days. The use of social media by employees is generally not protected by the First Amendment which only protects individuals from government action, not actions of private employers.

Employees can be terminated for social media speech even if it was created with their private accounts and prepared after work hours. Many companies are increasingly receiving complaints about employees who make threatening or inappropriate comments on Facebook, Twitter or other social media outlets.

As a result, many employers are then taking disciplinary action against these same employees. As the law on social media evolves we may see some protections develop where an employer takes discriminatory action for a post or violates other state and federal laws.

However, right now there is little in the way of protections for employment actions taken due to social media postings.

As easy as it is for an individual to express an inappropriate comment on social media in a moment of frustration it is just as easy for someone who sees the comment to report it to an employer.

In this evolving world of social media and employment law, it is generally a good idea for employees to understand the thin line that exists between posting on social media in a moment of frustration and an employer taking disciplinary action against them.

Conclusion

When facing employment or wrongful termination issues in Virginia it is important to obtain the advice of and representation of an attorney.  Our law firm advises and represents individuals in wrongful termination matters in Virginia and other jurisdictions. We can be contacted at www.berrylegal.com or by telephone at 703-668-0070.

Please also visit and like us on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

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