Bourgon HR Blog: HR Advice & Outsourcing Tips for Small Companies

Telecommuting Under the ADA – Common Sense Can Apply

Posted by Robert Craig on Tue, Jul 21, 2015

In late spring 2015 the Federal Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit issued an opinion in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Ford Motor Company.

The EEOC sued Ford under the ADA alleging that it had failed to reasonably accommodate an employee who had a disability when it denied her request to work from home up to four days a week on an as needed basis.

Ford made the determination that the employee’s accommodation request was unreasonable because she could not effectively perform an essential function of her job while working remotely.

The essential function that was a critical aspect of her position required face-to-face interactions with customers, clients and work colleagues, a job function which could not be performed effectively while working remotely at home. The EEOC attempted to argue that in-person communications were not essential to the effective performance of the employee’s job. The Federal Appeals Court opinion reaffirms many legal principles that are fundamental to the administration and enforcement of the ADA.

The opinion’s key holdings include:

  • The general rule is that regularly attending work on-site is essential to most jobs, and that employees who do not come to work usually cannot perform their job functions – essential or otherwise: “Regular, in-person attendance is an essential function – and a prerequisite to essential functions – of most jobs, especially interactive ones.”
  • The employee here was NOT a qualified individual under the ADA because her excessive absences prevented her from performing the essential functions of her job as a resale buyer. This, attendance is required before a duty to accommodate arises.
  • An employee’s opinion as to what job functions are essential does not create a genuine dispute of fact.
  • An employer’s judgment as to essential job functions is controlling if it is job-related, uniformly enforced, and consistent with business necessity.
  • The determination of whether telecommuting is a reasonable accommodation requires a fact-specific analysis.
  • That an employer has a telecommuting policy and allows employees without a disability to telecommute does not require that it would allow all people with a disability to do the same if working remotely will not allow them to perform the essential functions of their jobs.

Topics: employment discrimination