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In House Lawyer Wins Work From Home Appeal

By George Khoury, Esq. on February 23, 2018 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

When Memphis Light, Gas and Water denied one of their own in house attorney's request for a reasonable accommodation to work from home during a period of temporary disability related to a pregnancy, the public utility likely didn't think they'd get sued. It's not like lawyers are a very litigious bunch... oh wait... .

When it comes to denying an employee a reasonable accommodation, employers should take heed and learn the lesson the Memphis utility is learning the hard way (after losing their Sixth Circuit appeal): if the accommodation is objectively reasonable, it should be granted despite a boss's subjective beliefs.

Working During Bed Rest

In 2013, while 23 weeks pregnant, Andrea J. Mosby-Meachem's doctors discovered complications requiring surgery. As a result of both the complications and surgery, and to ensure the pregnancy, her doctor also recommended 10 weeks of bed rest post surgery. However, her doctor believed that Mosby-Meachem would be able to work from home or the hospital while on bed rest.

Unfortunately for the in house attorney, her boss was a bit of stickler about attorneys telecommuting, and despite it being a common practice, and one that Mosby-Meachem had used in the past, her request was denied. Her employer claimed that the reasonable accommodation was not reasonable because it claimed that being present in the office was an essential function for the job.

But, as the court explained, there was no proof to support that actually being in the office was essential. In fact, the court noted that the proof at trial supported the exact opposite conclusion, that being in the office was not essential. Further, the utility failed to engage in a good faith back and forth process to work out what could have been a reasonable accommodation.

Reasonable Accommodations are Required by Law

Employers need to remember that reasonable accommodations are required by the Americans with Disabilities Act and can encompass quite a few options. And before denying a request, employers should remember that failing to even engage in a discussion about what reasonable accommodations could be made violates the requirements set forth by the ADA.

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