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Total Articles: 9

Not Phoning It In: Telecommuting Accommodations and the ADA

In Quentin Tarantino's classic film, "Pulp Fiction," two hitmen, Jules and Vincent (played by Samuel L. Jackson and John Travolta), find themselves in a farcical and escalating "mess" – requiring the advice of a "fixer" known as "The Wolf" (played by Harvey Keitel). The Wolf arrives at the scene, assesses the situation with cool detachment, and develops a detailed plan to extricate Jules and Vincent from their unsavory dilemma. Imagine "The Wolf" insisting on phoning in his assistance instead of working in person with Jules and Vincent. Would he have been as effective? In this podcast, we discuss how agile work and employee requests to work from home implicate obligations under employment laws – specifically the Americans with Disabilities Act and other non-discrimination laws.

Telework Under The ADA & Other Nondiscrimination Laws

A workforce that adheres to a traditional work style, or a consistent eight-hour workday in the same location – with no offsite work or interaction with business colleagues or customers – is increasingly becoming a relic in many settings. Whether at a coffee house, commuter train, airport lounge, or soccer field, transactions, communications, and decisions take place on a range of devices away from the brick-and-mortar jobsite.

Employer Not Required by ADA to Permit Employee to Telecommute

Executive Summary: Reversing an earlier panel decision, the Sixth Circuit has held that an employee who was unable to regularly and consistently attend work was not a qualified individual with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because her excessive absences prevented her from performing the essential functions of her job. Accordingly, the employer was not required to permit her to telecommute because doing so would excuse her from performing one of the essential functions of her job and, thus, was not a reasonable accommodation. See EEOC v. Ford Motor Company, (April 10, 2015).

Employers Can Decide That Physical Presence at the Workplace is an Essential Function

On April 10, 2015, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its long-awaited en banc decision in Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Ford Motor Company following a vacated panel decision from April 2014 in which a divided panel had reversed a district court’s summary judgment award in Ford’s favor.

Sixth Circuit Holds Telecommuting Not a Reasonable Accommodation Where Regular and Predictable On-Site Job Attendance is an Essential Job Function

Courts have repeatedly recognized that “regular job attendance” is an essential function of most jobs that need not be altered in order to reasonably accommodate a disabled employee. This common sense notion, however, has come under increasing scrutiny given the technological advancements that have made telecommuting and other remote working arrangements routine in many workplaces.

Decision Holding Telecommuting to Be a Reasonable Accommodation Provides a Cautionary Tale for Employers

In a 2-1 decision, the Sixth Circuit in EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., No. 12-2484 (6th Cir. April 22, 2014) has dealt employers a blow regarding the extent to which a company must reasonably accommodate an employee with a disability. In this particular case, the employee sought a four-day-per-week telecommuting arrangement. Even though Ford found in its business judgment that this was not a workable arrangement, the court disagreed, noting that due to modern technology, the types of jobs where employees can fulfill all essential requirements while working remotely has significantly increased.

Is Telecommuting as a Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA the New Norm?

Executive Summary: The Sixth Circuit recently held that a four day per week telecommuting arrangement could be a reasonable accommodation for a disabled employee, even though the employer determined, in its business judgment, that teleconferencing was an insufficient substitute for in-person work. The court noted that, given the state of modern technology, the class of cases in which an employee can fulfill all requirements of the job while working remotely has greatly increased, and it is no longer the case that jobs suitable for telecommuting are "extraordinary" or "unusual." See EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., No. 12-2484 (6th Cir. Apr. 22, 2014).

Don’t panic about your telecommuting policy . . . unless you’re in the Sixth Circuit.

A recent decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seems to have sent many employers into a tailspin on whether and how often to allow employees to telecommute to fulfill job responsibilities. EEOC v. Ford Motor Company, 6th Cir., No. 12-2484, April 22, 2014. (FindLaw.com link.) However, at this point, it is too early to tell what kind of effect the decision will have on a wider basis.

How to Change Employment Policies Without “Pulling a Yahoo”

How can companies change policies or take away benefits without enraging employees and creating a public relations nightmare?