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This article deals with telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., the Sixth Circuit held that attendance at work cannot always be assumed to mean physical presence at the employer’s work site.
The Court decided that Ford had to consider telecommuting as an option for the plaintiff. In reaching this conclusion, the Court made some interesting observations that have implications for any employer confronted with an employee requesting to telecommute. Here are the key points:
1. While attendance at work is still an essential function of most jobs, “attendance” can no longer be assumed to mean presence at the physical workplace.
2. The “workplace” is anywhere that an employee can perform the job.
3. Even where a job requires teamwork or interaction with colleagues, an employee can often perform those functions remotely with advances in technology such as teleconferencing.
4. Jobs suitable for telecommuting are no longer extraordinary or unique, and the universe of potential telecommuters is expanding rapidly.
The Court was careful to note that where predictable attendance during core business hours is an essential function of the job, that telecommuting may not work. However, the Court clearly took an expansive view of the company’s requirement to consider a telecommuting relationship for its employees. Further, you can believe that the EEOC will use this decision in evaluating any telecommuting cases regardless of the state.
The takeaway for employers in Connecticut when “driving” forward (sorry, more car puns with a case name like this): Proceed with caution!
Do you agree that the EEOC will use this decision in evaluating any telecommuting cases regardless of the state?