No bias allowed when deciding who telecommutes

About 45% of employers permit some of their employees to telecommute. If you allow staff members to work from home, make sure managers and supervisors grant the privilege fairly. They shouldn’t declare anyone ineligible for telecommuting because of any protected characteristic such as sex.

For example, no one should question an employee’s ability to effectively telecommute because she has a young child—unless, of course, you ask all potential teleworkers, including older workers and men, about their child care responsibilities. Otherwise, you risk a sex discrimination charge.

A court may consider your questions and assumptions to be evidence of sex discrimination based on stereotypes.

Recent case: Mary, an office manager, had a two-year-old child and became pregnant. She asked if she could telecommute, but was turned down. Shortly afterward, she was terminated for alleged poor performance.

Mary sued, alleging pregnancy discrimination and sex discrimination. She bolstered her sex discrimination claim by stating that when she asked to telecommute, her boss had said she could neither be an effective employee nor work from home as the mother of a small child.

The court said her claims could move forward. (Ciocca v. Hendrick & Struggles, ED PA, 2018)