Saturday, August 27, 2011

Does Your Employer Have to Let You Work From Home as an Accommodation?

For disabled individuals in Pittsburgh desirous of a work accommodation under the ADA the question often arises of whether working from home is a reasonable accommodation.  That answer is "it depends" whether an employer must allow an employee with an ADA disability to work at home as a reasonable accommodation.

The bottom-line principle is that an employer has to modify its policy concerning where work is performed BUT only if such a change is needed as a reasonable accommodation, AND only if the accommodation would be effective and would not cause an undue hardship on the employer.  Whether a work from home accommodation is effective/reasonable depends on whether the essential functions of the position can be performed at home. It doesn't matter if most of the essential functions can be performed at home...all the essential functions must be able to be performed for this to be a legitimate accommodation.

There are certain jobs, most jobs in fact, where the essential functions can only be performed at the work site EX. food server, cashier in a store, face to face customer service rep, etc. For these kind of jobs, letting an employee work at home is not effective because it does not enable an employee to perform the essential functions. There are other considerations that are critical in determining whether a job can be effectively performed at home, including the employer's ability to adequately supervise the employee and the employee's need to work with certain equipment or tools that cannot be replicated at home. In contrast, employees may be able to perform the essential functions of certain types of jobs at home (e.g., telemarketer, proofreader).  For these types of jobs, an employer may only deny a request to work at home if it can show that another accommodation would be effective and/or if working at home will cause undue hardship.

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