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Telecommuting as Reasonable Accommodation

In EEOC v. Ford Motor Company, No. 12-2484 (6th Cir. Apr. 22, 2014), the Sixth Circuit appellate court upheld that telecommuting may be a reasonable ADA accommodation. When an employee requested to work from home full-time to accommodate her disabling irritable bowel syndrome under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), Ford refused, stating that the company stressed in-person teamwork. 

The Sixth Circuit remanded the case for further proceedings, holding that the EEOC had produced sufficient evidence about whether presence at the worksite was an essential function of the job and whether telecommuting was a reasonable accommodation. The court also noted that, due to the advance of technology, the workplace can no longer be assumed to mean the employer’s physical location. The court said that that the law must recognize “that the ‘workplace’ is anywhere that an employee can perform her job duties.”

This decision may result in an increase in telecommuting requests from employees with disabilities. It’s important to plan for this now. Review your written job requests and, if appropriate, include specifics about activities that cannot be performed remotely. Springboard is available to help review your essential job functions and make recommendations to increase the effectiveness of your job descriptions. When employees make telecommuting requests, engage in the interactive process and discuss their workplace needs and functional limitations. As always, identify and implement a mutually beneficial accommodation!

This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.