Working from home is nothing new, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has certainly shed new light and perspective on its usefulness. As many businesses have adopted hybrid telework models or gone completely virtual, it’s often been made apparent that working in an office isn’t always necessary for every job.
This, of course, might come to the chagrin of disability advocates who have long fought to assert work-from-home arrangements as a reasonable accommodation. According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, working from home can be considered a reasonable accommodation, but there’s a lot that can practically prevent a disabled employee from enjoying such accommodation.
Undue Hardship as an Obstacle
The main obstacle anyone seeking telework as an accommodation must overcome is “undue hardship” alleged by the employer. If an employer isn’t openly supportive of work-from-home arrangements, they might say that an employee working from home will pose an undue hardship upon the company.
In other words, allowing a disabled employee to perform their job from home to accommodate their disability will harm the company in some way or another. As you might expect, that leaves a lot of room for interpretation as to what hardship to the company will look like and how severe it may actually be.
This means that employees should anticipate how their employers might react to requests for work-from-home accommodations and be prepared to negotiate or take legal action.
Disability Is a Key Factor
Although many employees without disabilities are working from home these days, only those with disabilities are legally protected when they request telework arrangements. This is because reasonable accommodations are meant to accommodate someone’s disability and reduce hardship upon the employee to fulfill essential functions of their role.
Merely requesting to work from home is not protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act or any other laws protecting employees with qualifying disabilities.
For more information about this topic, contact K2 Employment Law today!