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Is Telecommuting A Reasonable Accommodation for Disabled Employees?

Recently, the Sixth Circuit made a decision on telecommuting accommodations in regards to disabled employees. Although, Illinois operates in the Seventh Circuit, this case is worth considering for any employer or disabled employee about to make a decision on telecommuting or on any other reasonable accommodation.

This case pitted the Equal Opportunity Commission against the Ford Motor Company, which had fired a disabled employee requesting to work remotely. Initially, the court in this case found several occasions that would call for telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation for disabled workers. However, several state groups, believing telecommuting gave excess power to employees, who could now choose their workplace, convinced the courts to vacate their ruling. The case is still pending and could go either way.

Workers with disabilities are generally subject to special privileges in agreement with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

What Accommodations Must An Employer Offer A Disabled Employee under ADA?

The act doesn’t specifically mention examples of reasonable accommodation, only that the accommodations must be met, unless the accommodations can be proven to be a danger to the employee and other employees as well or if it imposes some other “undue burden” for the company.

Employers must not discriminate against a disabled worker if they can execute the basic tasks of their job with or without accommodation. Such discrimination could take place during hiring or during promotions. In the above court case, the Ford Motor Company argued that the plaintiff could not execute all of the basic tasks of the position away from the workplace. Therefore, the defendant is arguing that, in this sense, telecommuting is not reasonable accommodation for the job.

The employer needs only to accommodate a disabled worker if the disability is known, which means it is up to the employee to request accommodation. After a request is made, a liaison at the Illinois Department of Human Services will consider the disability and offer recommendations. One appeal on this decision can be made, but the Secretary of Humans Service’s verdict of the appeal will be final.

What Are Some Examples Of Reasonable Accommodation?

  • Telephone amplifiers for those hard of hearing.
  • Readers for those who with vision problems.
  • Flexible work schedules for those who must regularly go to the doctor.
  • Remote work, which could cancel out most problems that the workplace may cause for the disabled employee.
  • Modifying the workplace to accommodate disabled workers, such as adding ramps.

Again, in all cases, including telecommuting, the reasonable accommodation must not interfere with the execution of the basic functions of the job or cause an “undue burden” to the employer.

Employment Law Attorneys in Hoffman Estates and Des Plaines

If you are unsure about an Americans with Disabilities Act violation at the workplace, then contact our employment lawyers. The law firm of MacDonald, Lee & Senechalle, Ltd. is here to explain to you the state of the law and the options you may have as a business owner or employee.

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