In recent years, many employers have shied away from telecommuting programs and arrangements, believing employees cannot perform their jobs as effectively from home or be adequately supervised while working remotely. Disputes naturally arise when such employers receive requests from disabled employees seeking telecommuting as an accommodation. Employers who genuinely place an emphasis on employees working at the office or job site can expect to find support from the courts when they deny such requests. However, these employers must be prepared to explain legitimate business justifications for their position on telecommuting and ensure their policies and past practices are consistent with that position.
With its passage in 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) put forth the now commonly understood requirement that employers must provide disabled employees with accommodations enabling them to perform the essential functions of their jobs or otherwise enjoy employment opportunities equal to non-disabled co-workers. The ADA did not originally discuss whether or when telecommuting is a “reasonable” accommodation or causes an “undue hardship.”
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