Whether an employer must provide the accommodation of working from home because of a disability depends on the situation. By way of background, the Americans with Disabilities Act is a federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability in all employment practices. There are other federal and state laws that prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability in the workplace as well. An individual is considered to have a disability, and is therefore protected, if he or she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, has a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having a disability. Major life activities could include walking, seeing, speaking, hearing, eating, breathing, or the operation of a major bodily function such as the brain.
By law, if an applicant or an employee is “qualified” to hold the job, he or she cannot be discriminated against on the basis of the disability. A person is considered qualified if he or she meets the required skills, experience, education, and other requirements of the position and with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job.
Employers are required by law to make reasonable accommodations to a qualified person with a disability unless the accommodations would constitute an undue hardship for the business. For example, a business may be required to print any training materials in a larger font for a person who had eyesight problems but could otherwise perform the job. However, an employer would probably not be required to install an elevator in its building in order to accommodate an employee in a wheelchair.
If an employee has a disability and wants to work from home, the employer may or may not be required to let the employee do that, depending on whether or not it’s a reasonable accommodation, and whether it would impose an undue hardship on the employer. If, for example, all of an employee’s work was done on the computer, the employee’s presence was rarely needed in the office, and the employee could show that he or she would get the same amount of work done at home, allowing the employee to work from home would most likely be considered a reasonable accommodation.
However, if the employee’s presence was needed in the office, such as to interact with clients, customers, or other employees face to face, or if it was not possible to do the work remotely, the employer is not required to allow the employee to work from home, because a reasonable accommodation could not be offered. It is important to note that these rules only apply to individuals with disabilities. If a non-disabled person wants to work from home, an employer is not legally required to even attempt to satisfy the request.
The rules for whether or not an employee should be entitled to special treatment for a disability are very fact-dependent. It’s not always clear what is considered to be a disability, or what qualifies as a reasonable hardship to the employer. In addition, state rules can also have an impact on how the disabled must legally be treated in the workplace.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employees who are disabled, but can be valuable and productive workers with a reasonable accommodation, should be entitled to that accommodation. In addition, disabled workers should not be discriminated against or harassed because of their disability.
If you believe that you have been the victim of mistreatment in the workplace because of your disability, call Micha Star Liberty of Liberty Law, San Francisco disability discrimination attorney. Micha Star Liberty is an employment lawyer in the Oakland-San Francisco area and will be happy to speak with you about your case. Call today at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000.