Q&A with Tanya Bryant
Court’s ruling on telecommuting can affect Oklahoma businesses
Q: What should employers do to accommodate remote work?
A: Telecommuting is a work arrangement that allows employees to work at home or at some other off-site location for all or some of their regularly scheduled work hours. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to reasonably accommodate otherwise qualified employees with disabilities. An employee is otherwise qualified if he or she can perform the essential functions of the job with or without reasonable accommodation. Whether an employee can be accommodated for a specific job is a fact-intensive inquiry. Employers are not required to make an accommodation if it would cause an undue hardship. Although the ADA and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission do not mandate that employers always offer telecommuting programs to employees, the recent decision from the 6th Circuit in the EEOC v. Ford Motor Co. case should alert employers that in certain situations, allowing an employee to telecommute may be a reasonable accommodation.
Q: How could the EEOC v. Ford Motor Co. case affect Oklahoma employers?
A: In Ford, the employee, a resale buyer, made a request to her employer to work from home due to her disability, irritable bowel syndrome. The employee’s job duties included purchasing and reselling steel. Ford denied the employee’s request because it deemed that being in the office was an essential function of her job, placing emphasis on teamwork and face-to-face problem solving. The court, however, found evidence that much of the work could be performed by telephone or video conference. Additionally, Ford had permitted other buyers to work from home. Therefore, the court allowed the employee to proceed with her ADA failure to accommodate claim.