Remote Work & Reasonable Accommodation
During the Covid pandemic, employees throughout Pennsylvania adapted to remote work, proving it is effective. Law firms, medical offices, colleges/universities, telecom companies, etc., moved to an entirely remote working environment in 2020 and 2021. Many employers have adopted a hybrid in-office, remote work policy. Others will remain 100% remote into 2022.
What happens when an employee needs to work from home on a permanent or partial basis? Is the remote work request reasonable?
Since 2003, the EEOC has recognized that remote work may be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA:
“Not all persons with disabilities need – or want – to work at home. And not all jobs can be performed at home. But, allowing an employee to work at home may be a reasonable accommodation where the person’s disability prevents successfully performing the job on-site and the job, or parts of the job, can be performed at home without causing significant difficulty or expense.”
See EEOC guidance sheet, Work at Home/Telework as a Reasonable Accommodation (published Feb. 3, 2003).
Under the ADA, a reasonable accommodation is a change in the work environment that permits a disabled employee to perform their job functions. This can include things like providing equipment, restructuring parts of the job, modifying work schedules, etc.
The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations unless doing so would cause undue hardship (significant expenses or difficulty).
It’s important to note that the ADA applies not only to employees but also to job applicants. Here’s an example. An Army veteran with PTSD is interviewed for an office job at a company in Philadelphia. He is qualified for the job and has already passed an initial interview. During the final interview, he requests to work from home due to PTSD. His doctor recommends working from home until the PTSD improves. His application is denied, and when he calls to request an explanation, he is told that his remote work request was the sole issue.
In this instance, the Army vet would have a potential claim for disability discrimination under the ADA, based on the employer’s denial of his application solely on the basis of his request to work from home.
Pregnancy & Remote Work
Pregnancy is not considered a disability under the ADA. However, any medical conditions associated with pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, etc., may be recognized as a disability under the ADA. If there are no such medical conditions, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act prohibits employers from discriminating against pregnant employees with respect to any term or condition of employment. Learn more about pregnancy discrimination in employment.
About Koller Law Employment Lawyers
For decades, we’ve been handling employment law cases, including disability discrimination, for workers across Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Koller Law is not run like every other firm – we provide the compassionate, individual attention employees need and deserve.
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Last updated: August 16, 2022