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Telecommuting Guidelines for Reasonable Workplace Accommodations

If you have a condition that qualifies under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), your employer may be required to allow telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation for your disability. In order to qualify under ADA telecommuting guidelines:

  • the employer must be covered by the ADA (applies to all public employers and private employers with 15 or more employees);
  • you must be a qualified employee, meaning you meet the minimum job requirements;
  • you must be disabled, as defined by the ADA;
  • telecommuting must not be an undue burden on the employer.

Qualifying Disability

The ADA is a federal law that prohibits workplace discrimination based on disabilities of qualified individuals, including job application procedures, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, training, and other privileges of employment (e.g., benefits). The ADA applies to all government entities and private employers with over 15 employees.

The ADA states that a qualifying disability must be a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity. Persons who have a record of such an impairment also qualify. A major life activity is defined as seeing, hearing, breathing, walking, performing manual tasks, or caring for oneself. An individual with epilepsy, paralysis, HIV infection, AIDS, a substantial hearing or visual impairment, mental retardation, or a specific learning disability is covered, but an individual with a minor, non-chronic condition of short duration, such as a sprain, broken limb, or the flu, generally would not be covered. The ADA was recently expanded to essentially make it easier to qualify for a disability under the law. For more information one what qualifies as a disability, visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

Having a history of such an impairment also qualifies, so recovery from cancer or mental illness counts as a disability under the ADA.

Reasonable Accommodation

Assuming your condition qualifies as a disability under the ADA, the employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to work around your disability. Employers are not, however, required to make accommodations that impose an undue burden on the employer. Telecommuting is one way in which employers provide reasonable accommodation to qualifying employees. Employees can consult their employers telecommuting guidelines for details.

For example, lets say you are recovering from cancer and require chemotherapy treatments, which require you to be in the hospital on certain days and tax so much of your energy on other days that you cannot physically go to work. If your job is simply making phone calls, it would likely not be an undue burden upon the employer to allow you to do your job from home, assuming you are able to do so.

Telecommuting guidelines should be discussed between employee and employer. Employers are not required to allow telecommuting as an accommodation if major functions of the job cannot be performed at home. However, relatively minor duties can be shifted to other employees or rearranged so that the disabled employee can handle those duties on certain days or at time when the employee is better able to carry them out.

If your employer is covered by the ADA, youre a qualified employee, you have a qualified disability under the ADA, and the job can be performed at home, your employer will likely be required to allow you to telecommute from home. Be aware that your employer may not be pleased to allow telecommuting (some companies resist such arrangements), so the biggest fight will likely be over whether critical elements of the job can be properly performed at home.

For more information on telecommuting and whether you qualify under ADA telecommuting guidelines, visit the EEOC Work at Home page.

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Next Steps

Contact a qualified employment discrimination attorney to make sure your rights are protected.

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