Working from Home as a Disability Accommodation

working from home ada accommodation telecommuteTelecommuting or working from home can often be an effective, reasonable accommodation to an employee with a particular disability or medical condition, especially in cases where the commute itself is challenging because of an injury (i.e. serious back injury, foot injury etc…) and where work tasks can be effective accomplished without being in office, or at least – without being in office 100% of the time.

The employers often refuse to allow an employee with an ADA disability to work from home, because of a general policy that a company might have that prohibits working from home, or a policy that does not allow telecommuting to  new employees or employees on probation. However, having that type of policy alone will not shield an employer form the obligation to make an exception for an employee with an ADA condition, where to do so would be reasonable and would not impose an undue hardship on the employer’s operations. (see US Airways Inc. v Barnett (2002).  Like any other type of accommodation, deciding whether to allow an employee to telecommute or to partially telecommute requires a flexible approach, taking into account that employee’s specific condition, his job duties v the company’s needs and the availability of other alternative accommodations.

If an employer denies an employee’s request for working from home as an accommodation, there has to be at least an attempt made to offer an alternative accommodation. If not, chances will be much higher that the employer will be liable for failure to accommodation / disability discrimination, if the employee ends up being fired and he sues the employer.

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