Will Remote Work Become a Reasonable Accommodation under the ADA?

By Lindsey A. DiCesare posted 12 days ago

  

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) recently filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia alleging an employer denied accommodations for remote work violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (the “ADA”). The suit was filed on behalf of Ronisha Moncrief, an employee of ISS Facility Services, Inc., who suffers chronic obstructive lung disease and hypertension. ISS required all employees to work remotely four days a week from March 2020 to June 2020 due to the pandemic. When ISS required employees to return in person in June, Moncrief requested accommodations to work remotely twice a week and to take frequent breaks when in the office because her disabilities make her high-risk for contracting COVID-19. ISS denied this request and terminated her employment two months later. (See full story here)

This type of case could have significant implications for employers given the frequency of remote work policies during the pandemic. It remains unclear whether courts will become more open to considering remote work as a reasonable accommodation. In 2015, the Sixth Circuit held that regular on-site job attendance was an essential function of plaintiff’s job as a resale buyer in EEOC v Ford Motor Co, 782 F3d 753 (2015) stating “most jobs require the kind of teamwork, personal interaction, and supervision that simply cannot be had in a home office situation.” Id. at 761 (citing Rauen v United States Tobacco Mfg Ltd P'ship, 319 F3d 891, 896 (7th Cir 2003)). Now, however, after many companies required employees to work from home for an extensive period of time during the pandemic, one could argue that an accommodation to work remotely several days a week is not unreasonable.

For more on employment litigation involving ADA claims, see Darcie R. Brault & Allyson A. Miller,  "Discrimination Based on Disability," in Employment Litigation in Michigan ch 5 (ICLE 3rd ed).
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