Is an employer required to allow an employee to telecommute because of the employee's disability under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)?

Author: Melissa Burdorf, XpertHR Legal Editor

It depends. Once an employer is aware that an employee has a disability under the ADA and the disability is impacting the employee's ability to perform the essential functions of the job, the employer and employee should engage in an open-ended dialogue to determine if a reasonable accommodation exists to enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. Allowing an employee to work from home (telecommute or telework) may be a reasonable accommodation if the employee's disability prevents the employee from successfully performing their job on-site and the job, or parts of the job, can be performed at home without causing the employer significant difficulty or expense.

An employer should closely evaluate a request to work at home where the employer has a history of allowing other employees to occasionally work out of their homes. An employer should keep in mind that some situations may make an employee's request unreasonable, for example, when the job requires teamwork under supervision that cannot be replaced with unsupervised work at home. An employer may also be able to show in-person attendance to be an essential function of the job. The key to the employer's decision is whether telecommuting is reasonable under the employee's particular circumstances.