Employment Law Blog

News, trends and analysis in employment law and HR

Aug 12, 2014

Telecommuting privileges can be an accommodation under ADA

Disability 

An employee received the green light to sue his employer after the employer withdrew his telecommuting privileges and then fired him 30 days following his disclosure that he needed to work from home due to a social anxiety disorder.

An employee received the green light to sue his employer after the employer withdrew his telecommuting privileges and then fired him 30 days following his disclosure that he needed to work from home due to a social anxiety disorder. The logistics employee worked for his employer for three years and, after receiving positive reviews, was allowed to telecommute. After three months, the employer found performance issues on his sales tracking and removed his telecommuting privilege. The employee then disclosed his disorder, shared documentation from his doctor, and requested an accommodation. The employer provided the employee with an isolated office, but the performance issues persisted and the employee was fired.

The court ultimately sided with the employee, allowing his case to proceed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The employee was able to show other employees were not fired for the same policy violations that he was fired for. Plus, it was clear that he provided documentation of his disorder and requested an accommodation. The court also noted evidence of the company’s disdain for the employee, pointing out this negative perception may have contributed to his poor treatment (Bresser v. Total Quality Logistics, WD Ohio, May 2014).

When an employee has a disability, the employer has to determine if the disability directly impacts the performance of essential job functions. In this case, the employee provided evidence that other employees with the same policy violations were not fired. Therefore, the plaintiff’s disability may have been unfairly linked to his performance and then his dismissal.

Tips: Managers may want to reserve telecommuting as a fringe benefit for high-performing workers, but it may also be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. At Vigilant, we advise you to be prepared to engage in the interactive process required by the ADA if your employees cite a disability as the reason to work from home. Any communication about an employee’s disability and accommodation should also be free of disparaging remarks. Talk to your Vigilant staff representative and see our Legal Guide, “ADA: Reasonable Accommodation and the Interactive Process” (1078) for guidance and information or contact us to learn about help with this and many other employment issues.

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