COVID-19 Telecommuting

Telecommuting As A "Reasonable Accommodation" During COVID-19

Our clients, both employers and employees, have asked us whether telecommuting could legally be considered a reasonable accommodation to disabled employees who make that request. This question has become particularly relevant in the age of Covid-19 when employees want to stay home because they feel that working in a healthcare environment is a risk for them. Some are more concerned than others depending upon their physical conditions. The short answer is "yes" if telecommuting is reasonable given the requirements of the position and the needs of the employer.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) imposes a duty on employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to those employees and applicants who suffer from disabilities and who can perform the essential functions of their position if an accommodation is made. The health care industry is not exempted from the ADA’s requirements.


The Covid-19 pandemic alone does not require an employer to make reasonable accommodations if an employee is concerned about being at the worksite. This is even true in health care. If the workplace is safe, as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, employees can be required to work on-site. If, however, an employee has a disability that puts the employee at risk because of Covid-19, telecommuting may be considered a reasonable accommodation if it does not impose an undue hardship on the employer.

The analysis of whether telecommuting would constitute a reasonable accommodation begins with the nature of the disability and whether telecommuting is required for the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. Is there another accommodation which would allow the employee to work on-site and still perform the essential functions of the position? If so, telecommuting may not have to be offered even if it is also a reasonable accommodation. If telecommuting would result in the employee not being able to perform the essential functions of the position, telecommuting would not be a reasonable accommodation.

 

If telecommuting would result in the employee not being able to perform the essential functions of the position, the question becomes whether allowing the employee to telecommute is reasonable in terms of the hardship it may impose on the employer. What is an undue hardship? In determining undue hardship on the employer, relevant factors could include the cost to the employer of the accommodation, the operations of the employer and the impact on other employees. Some accommodations, however, may meet the employee’s needs on a temporary basis even though making those accommodations may not be feasible for the employer on a permanent basis.

 
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Articles distributed by Malecki & Brooks Law Group, LLC are advertisements and summaries for general information and discussion purposes only.  They are not full analyses of the matters presented, legal, or otherwise, and may not be relied upon as legal advice. 


 

 

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