Telecommuting doesn’t always have to be seen as a reasonable accommodation

Court affirms the importance of job descriptions describing essential functions.

When you have a worker out for some disability they may request the possibility of telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation. To some people and companies that may seem to be reasonable, but to others it may not.

The case

A litigation attorney sued her employer for not providing the reasonable accommodation of allowing her to telecommute in her job. They felt like actually being at work, in the courtroom perhaps, was a necessary job requirement and essential function of her job as an attorney. The courts, both a lower court and the appeals court, agreed with the law firm and dismissed the lawsuit. The firm had offered unpaid time off as a reasonable accommodation. This case is much more complicated than I make this sound. The Department of Justice, whom the attorney worked for, went above and beyond, in my opinion, in trying to accommodate this employee. You can read more here.

Importance of a job description

Attorney Stephanie Sanon of Jackson Lewis, points out that a well written job description that details the essential. It is very instructive to read the Fifth Circuit Court’s opinion in this case. The discussion of “essential functions” is a very good one. That can be found here.
If you have job descriptions that are light on describing essential functions then pull them out and dust them off. Those descriptions of essential functions may save your company a great deal of heartache.

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