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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, and telecommuting must be an accommodation to your disability
  • Telecommuting must not be an undue burden on the employer

The ADA is a federal law, but there are also similar state statutes that offer similar protections for disabled workers. For example, in California, the Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) offers similar disability protections, but it applies to more employers, including those with 4 or more workers.

Qualifying Disability

The ADA is a federal law that prohibits workplace discrimination based on disabilities of qualified individuals, including job applications, hiring, termination, advancement, compensation, training, and other privileges of employment. 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, including working. Individuals with 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, among others.

An individual with epilepsy, paralysis, HIV infection, AIDS, a substantial hearing or visual impairment, mental retardation, or a specific learning disability may also be covered. Individuals with a minor, non-chronic condition of short duration, such as a sprain, broken limb, or the flu, generally would not be covered.

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

For more information about what qualifies as a disability, visit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Additionally, FindLaw has more information for filing discrimination charges with the EEOC.

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. However, employers are not 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 employer's telecommuting guidelines for details.

For example, imagine you are recovering from cancer and require chemotherapy treatments, which require you to be in the hospital on certain days. If your job is simply making phone calls, it may not be an undue burden upon the employer to allow you to do your job from home, assuming you are able to do so. However, the employer may still place the employee on unpaid leave until they recover. The employer does not have to offer telecommuting as an option.

Is Telecommuting a Reasonable Accommodation?

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

If you are covered under the ADA and the job can be performed at home, your employer will likely allow you to telecommute from home. Be aware that your employer may not be pleased to allow telecommuting. Some companies resist such arrangements. Your first hurdle may 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.

Legal Help for Disability Employment Discrimination Claims

Your employer's failure to take your disability claim seriously can result in discrimination under the ADA or state discrimination laws. If you have been discriminated against because of your disability and want more information about your legal options, talk to a qualified discrimination lawyer.

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