Telecommuting Accommodation? It Depends!

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Does being available electronically count as attendance? Maybe.

In EEOC v. Ford Motor, Co., No. 12-2484 (6th Cir. April 22, 2014), the employee worked as a resale steel buyer — an intermediary between steel suppliers and companies that produce steel parts. She suffered from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and, some days, she would be unable to drive to work or stand up from her desk without soiling herself. She requested to telecommute as an accommodation for her disability. The employer denied the request, saying that her position required her to be physically present and was not suitable for telecommuting.

The Sixth Circuit rejected the employer’s argument that “attendance” means presence at the employer’s actual location; and stated that “‘workplace’ is anywhere that an employee can perform her job duties.” Although the court was careful to say telecommuting is not appropriate for all jobs in all circumstances, the court’s broad language opens the door for other employees to request telecommuting in a variety of new circumstances.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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