While the ADA does require employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, the question of whether remote work is reasonable has many questions baked in. And on top of that, this duty is more complex than it sounds: many requirements must be met to apply to an employer. This article will focus on whether the accommodation of remote work is reasonable and when working remotely allows the employee to perform the job’s essential functions.
1. The Essential Functions of The Job and Remote Work
The essential duties or functions are those tasks that are fundamental to performing a specific job. If a disability prevents an employee from performing the essential functions of a job, and even a reasonable disability accommodation doesn’t make it so the disabled employee can perform the essential functions, then the employer doesn’t have a duty to accommodate. Put another way, the obligation to accommodate only goes so far. Think of it like this: it is a balance between the disabled employee’s interest in staying employed for wages on one side and, on the other side, the employer’s interest in only paying the employee if they can perform the essential job duties they were hired for.
So, an employer does not have to allow the accommodation of remote work if allowing the employee to do so would remove the essential job duties. For some jobs, the essential duties must be done at work because that is just the nature of the job, like cashiers or truck drivers. But, in many other jobs, some or all of the duties can be performed at home.
In making the remote accommodation, the employer may need to reassign some minor job duties if they cannot be completed remotely. And the employer may need to be flexible in allowing partial work from home. If some essential job duties must be performed in the workplace, then the employer and employee must decide whether working part-time at home and part-time in the workplace will meet both needs.
2. Is Remote Work a Reasonable Accommodation
Just because the employer doesn’t have to remove an essential duty to permit remote work doesn’t mean the employer is mandated to provide remote work. An employer is only required to make a “reasonable” accommodation and is not required to make the exact accommodation requested by the employee or even the most reasonable accommodation. What does this look like? Well, for example, an employee can’t demand their entire job be work from home if their disability may only require them to be able to work from during flare-ups. Whether an accommodation is reasonable is a fact-specific inquiry, and there are rarely obvious answers.
Did your employer fail to provide you or a loved one with reasonable disability accommodations? Contact the New York Disability Lawyers DeToffol & Gittleman today for a free consultation, and let’s ensure you receive the fair treatment you deserve.
The information in this blog post is for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice.