Do Disabled Employees Have a Right to Telecommute Under the ADA?
With modern technology, more and more jobs can be performed remotely. In U.S. workplaces, telecommuting is on the rise: Small Business Trends reports that approximately one quarter of Americans work from home at least some of the time. For many disabled workers, this is a welcome trend. The additional flexibility provides many new opportunities. It can make dealing with certain conditions much easier.
At the same time, the rise of telecommuting also raises some important question: Does a disabled worker ever have the right to telecommute? In the most simple terms, the answer is ‘yes’. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), there are some scenarios in which telecommuting could be ordered as a required accommodation. Here, our Miami employment law attorneys provide an overview of the three primary questions that must be considered if a disabled worker is seeking telecommunication as an accommodation.
Question #1: Is the Employer Covered By the ADA?
Not all companies are covered by the ADA. For private employers, the ADA applies to all companies with fifteen or more total employees. If an employer is not covered by the ADA, then they will not be required to offer telecommuting as an accommodation to a disabled worker. Of course, this does not mean that they are prevented from doing so.
Question #2: Can the Essential Functions of the Job Be Performed Remotely?
For an accomodation to be ‘reasonable’, it cannot have an undue burden on the employer. What does this mean in practice? It means that the proposed accommodation for a disabled worker must:
- Not be unreasonably costly for the business; and
- Not frustrate the essential purpose of the employee’s position.
As a simple example, it can be assumed that a bus driver would not be eligible for permanent telecommuting work — regardless of the status of their disability. The essential function of that position simply cannot be performed remotely. While that is an obvious example, there are also many ‘edge’ cases in which employers will try to argue that telecommuting is impossible or impractical as an accommodation. These disputes must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
Question #3: Are there Alternative Accommodations Available?
Under the ADA, employers are only required to offer a disabled worker an accommodation that meets their needs. They are not required to offer disabled workers the accommodation that is being requested. In some cases, employers may be fine with offering telecommuting as an accommodation.
However, in other cases, employers may be extremely resistant to the idea. These employers have a right to propose an alternative arrangement. If the proposed alternative is deemed sufficient to accommodate the disabled worker, then the employer has satisfied their legal obligations under state and federal labor laws.
Get Help From Our South Florida Employment Lawyers Today
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Florida employment lawyers handle the full range of cases brought under the Americans with Disabilities Act. We have the skills and legal experience to represent both employers and employees. To get immediate legal guidance, please contact our law firm today. With offices in West Palm Beach and Miami, we serve clients throughout South Florida.