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Is Teleworking a Reasonable Accommodation under the ADA?

2018-03-02

The 6th Circuit Court of Appeals says that teleworking can be a reasonable accommodation

In the case of Mosby-Meachem v. Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the jury verdict that teleworking can be a reasonable accommodation under the ADA if the employee is able to perform the essential functions of the job remotely and the request is for a finite period.

Andrea Mosby-Meachem, an in-house attorney, requested to telework while she was on doctor-ordered bed rest during the final 10 weeks of her pregnancy.  The company argued that in-person attendance was essential for effective job performance but the plaintiff presented contrary evidence.   Her job description listed one of her job functions as trying a case in court and taking dispositions, which could not be performed at home; however, she had never executed these tasks during her eight year tenure.   It was determined that the job description was outdated (20 years old) and unreliable.  Instead of granting her request to telework the company allowed her to take sick leave and short-term disability. 

The court found that teleworking can be a reasonable accommodation but failed to provide guidance as to when leave would constitute a reasonable accommodation as an alternative to the employee’s request to telework.  The court concluded that the jury could have found that the leave accommodation was not reasonable because the company had failed to engage in an interactive process to discuss her limitations and possible accommodations. 
At trial and in favor of the plaintiff’s disability discrimination claim, the jury awarded her $92,000 in compensatory damages and $18,184.32 in back pay. 

The takeaway to this verdict is to ensure that you evaluate each accommodation request on a case by case basis, engage in an interactive process with the employee, and maintain up-to date accurate job descriptions that identify the actual essential functions of the position.  

The foregoing has been prepared for the general information of clients and friends of Workplace Dynamics LLC and is not being represented as being all-inclusive or complete. It has been abridged from legislation, administrative ruling, agency directives, and other information provided by the government. It is not meant to provide legal advice with respect to any specific matter and should not be acted upon without professional counsel.