Workers can’t demand telecommute option

by on
in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

Don't be bullied by a disabled employee who says you must let her work from home as an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accommodation.

It's true that a reasonable accommodation can include modified working hours and some work from home. But as the case below illustrates, you don't have to grant such requests if the worker's position doesn't fit a work-at-home setting. You need to look at each request on a case-by-case basis. Deciding factor: If essential job functions require the employee to be at the workplace, don't feel pressured to comply with a telecommuting request.

Recent case: A software engineer took several medical leaves for surgeries and cancer treatments. She returned to work with a doctor's note stating it would be "beneficial" for her to work from home. But her employer denied the request because her job required interaction with contractors, including monitoring their work.

She sued, alleging that the denied accommodation violated the ADA. A lower court tossed out her case, and a federal appeals court agreed. A home office is rarely a reasonable accommodation, the court said, because most jobs require teamwork, personal interaction and supervision. (Rauen v. United States Tobacco Manufacturing Limited Partnership, No. 01-3973, 7th Cir., 2003)

Resource: For more advice, pick up a copy of the EEOC's new fact sheet, Work at Home/Telework As a Reasonable Accommodation, at www.eeoc.gov/facts/telework.html.

Leave a Comment