Can I Get Telework As A Reasonable Accommodation?
The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) is a federal law that prohibits disability discrimination. The statute imposes a number of different responsibilities under employers with 15 or more employees, including the duty to provide reasonable accommodation.
You may be wondering: Can I get telework as a reasonable workplace accommodation? The answer depends on several factors. In this article, you will find an overview of the most important things to understand about telework as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.
Background: What is a Reasonable Accommodation?
As simply stated by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a reasonable accommodation is a “modification or adjustment to a job, the work environment, or the way things are usually done during the hiring process.” The purpose of such a change is to help facilitate access to fair and equal employment opportunities for disabled individuals.
Reasonable accommodations can come in many different forms—from providing a worker with a wheelchair accessible office to providing a worker with full-time telework. Employers have a duty to engage in a good faith bargaining process with a disabled worker/applicant to help them find a reasonable accommodation that is actually effective.
Limitation: No Undue Burden in Employer
The ADA does not entitle a disabled employee to any specific accommodation. To be reasonable under the law, an accommodation must not present an undue burden on the employer. Also referred to as an undue hardship, an undue burden is one that would cause significant difficulty or expense.
Telework Can Qualify as a Reasonable Accommodation
It has been long recognized that work-from-home/telework can constitute a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. Back in 1999, the EEOC issued updated enforcement guidance on reasonable accommodation. The agency emphasized that “allowing an individual with a disability to work at home may be a form of reasonable accommodation.” With improved technology and the rapid changes in workplace practices brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, telework is becoming ever-more common. A 2021 study from the Pew Research Center found that two-thirds of U.S. employees worked from home at least once since the start of the pandemic.
The ADA Does Not Guarantee Telework: Specific Circumstances Matter
As a disabled worker, you are entitled to reasonable accommodation for employers covered by the ADA (15 or more employees). An accommodation should be effective in facilitating equal access and opportunities to perform a job that you are fundamentally qualified for. Telework can absolutely qualify as a reasonable accommodation. However, the ADA does not guarantee any specific person telework. The employer could satisfy its obligations with an alternative (but still effective) reasonable accommodation. Further, employers are not required to give a disabled employee the telework as a reasonable accommodation if doing so would impose an undue hardship.
Get Help From a Disability Discrimination Attorney in Florida
Disabled workers deserve access to fair and equitable opportunities in the workplace. If you believe that you were denied a reasonable accommodation in violation of the ADA, reach out to an experienced Florida disability discrimination attorney for help.