An increasing number of employees are starting to work from home on a regular basis. As computer technology allows workers to accomplish their job duties from outside the office, telecommuting makes more sense. Not only does it lower the cost of providing office space for employees, it can provide the employee more time to efficiently accomplish tasks since commuting to and from the office is not necessary.
Employers should also consider the legal reasons for allowing employees to telecommute, particularly in regard to complying with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). While telecommuting is not specifically discussed in the ADA, permitting an employee to work from home could constitute a reasonable accommodation for a disabled employee. In fact, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) may consider an employer to be obligated to offer telecommuting to a disabled worker in certain circumstances. In determining if telecommuting is a reasonable accommodation, the EEOC would likely consider:
- the ability of the employer to properly supervise the employee
- the employee’s need to work with certain equipment that cannot be replicated at home
- the need for face-to-face communication and coordination with others
- the necessity for in-person interactions with outside customers, clients or other parties
- whether the employee’s job duties require him/her to have access to documents or other information that is only accessible in the workplace
Although there is a history of the courts viewing telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation only in limited circumstances since being at the worksite is an essential function of most jobs, it is a position that may change as societal norms and pressures change.
Employers should confer with legal counsel before denying a request to telecommute as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. We can help you assess the essential functions of the employee’s job and whether they can be properly performed from the employee’s home.
If you need assistance with a reasonable accommodation request under the ADA, contact the legal team at The Swenson Law Firm to schedule an initial consultation.