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Telecommuting Can Be Reasonable Accommodation under ADA

    Client Alerts
  • May 11, 2007

Regulations and enforcement guidances issued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission have always recognized that telecommuting can be a form of reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Certain mental or physical disorders can prevent an employee from physically coming to work.  However, the EEOC takes the position that certain jobs can be done remotely, for at least a temporary period of time.  In early litigation under the ADA in the 1990’s, federal courts expressed significant skepticism over whether telecommuting was reasonable in most circumstances.  A number of early decisions accept the employer’s argument that being physically present at work is an essential job function.  However, these opinions began to change this decade.  In more recent decisions, numerous courts have held that telecommuting is a required ADA accommodation.  This “modern” approach is reflected in a new decision from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, Woodruff v. Peters.


In this case, the Federal Aviation Administration revoked an employee’s permission to telecommute several days a week from home, and to work other flexible hours to accommodate an injury.  The D.C. Circuit reversed summary judgment for the FAA, sending the specific telecommuting arrangement enjoyed by the plaintiff to a jury for determination of reasonableness.  In its decision, the court appeared influenced by the growing acceptance of telecommuting as a standard work practice.  In addition, improving telecommunications capabilities make telecommuting a viable alternative for more jobs.  While some positions clearly require face-to-face interaction and presence, and employer faced with an ADA accommodation should never dismiss a request for telecommuting without a full reasonable accommodation analysis.