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July 2010: Denise Joan Pipersburgh, Esq.

Senior associate with Multiple Sclerosis seeks accommodations and makes accommodations to thrive at law firm.

The workplace accommodation is an important guarantee provided by laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act. Workers who qualify for an accommodation are completely capable of performing their jobs—it is just that they need assistance from the employer so they can live up to their full potential. Denise Joan Pipersburgh, Esq. a senior associate for Wolff & Samson PC in West Orange, NJ, telecommutes, an accommodation she says has been invaluable to her career.

Denise was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis during her first year at the University of Connecticut School of Law. After law school she joined Wolff & Samson, where she has been for nearly 9 years. As an attorney in the firm’s employment law practice, she counsels employers and human resource professionals on a variety of issues related to state and federal employment laws, drafts and revises employment-related agreements and personnel policies, and advises management on employment-related laws and issues. When she was interviewing with the firm, she disclosed her impairment and was quickly reassured of the firm’s commitment to accommodating attorneys with disabilities. “They were not at all wrong,” Denise said. “From the start, the firm and its partners have been very astute in accommodating my disability. They would notice when I was not feeling well and make sure that I was placed in a situation where I could best perform.”

Currently Denise telecommutes from her home approximately 4 days a week. This workplace accommodation, while enabling her to perform her duties, often demands more from Denise than coming into the office. “I tend to work longer hours when I am at home,” Denise observed. “There is no commute, and I am working from when I remotely log in at 8 A.M. until I go to bed in the evening.” Yet there is the benefit that Denise has developed better organizational skills due to not having a secretary nearby. “Benefits and detractions aside,” she stated, “it is important to realize that telecommuting is an accommodation that is as integral to my career as an attorney’s license or a computer.”

Denise also makes her own accommodations in order to thrive at her firm. “First, I need to continually remind myself that my condition does not slow me down and show others around me that I am reliable and not incapable of a task due to my MS,” she said. “Also, I find other ways to draw attention to my talent and my firm in order to bring in business. Instead of going out to networking events with the firm or a local bar association, I write and publish in my particular field and have speaking engagements. These alternate methods enable me to show clients and potential clients that my firm and I have something valuable to offer them."