Include ‘work-on-site’ requirement in job description

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

Issue: Must you include a position's most obvious requirements, such as working at the job site, in employees' job descriptions?

Risk: Misunderstandings can spark lawsuits from employees who are eligible for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Action: Err on the side of caution. State in job descriptions that employees must be on-site if they can't do the job from a remote location.

It's clear that some jobs require employees to work on-site and work alongside other people. But should you state such an obvious requirement in every job description?

The following case says "No," you aren't required to include it. But it can't hurt. In fact, including that small line in job descriptions may help avoid misunderstanding or, worse, ADA lawsuits like this one.

Recent case: Diane Mason suffered post-traumatic stress disorder after witnessing the shootings of Postal Service co-workers. Her symptoms flared up years later while she worked for another employer.

As a result, she asked to work from home as an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodation. Her employer denied Mason's request, saying her job required that she work on-site to schedule service technicians.

Mason sued under ADA, saying the company refused to accommodate her disability. Mason argued that she should be allowed to telecommute because her job description never mandated on-site attendance.

Both a district court and an appeals court sided with the company, saying that even though attendance and teamwork weren't specified in Mason's job description, it didn't mean those functions weren't essential to the position. Common sense dictated that they were. (Mason v. Avaya Communications Inc., No. 03-6035, 10th Cir., 2004)

Bottom line: Avoid the lawsuit in the first place. If a particular job really does require an employee to be on-site, include that requirement in the job description.

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