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How to Handle Requests for Flexible Work Arrangements

Author: Barton A. Bixenstine, Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP

In recent years, shifts in the demographics of the US labor market have led to a dramatic growth in the number of employees who must juggle family and work responsibilities. At the same time, market and technology forces have given many employers an economic incentive to adopt more flexible work arrangements for some jobs so they can respond quickly to changes in product demand and new market developments, and manage economic uncertainties. Together, these forces have contributed to an explosive growth in so-called flexible work arrangements, such as such as flextime, telework and compressed workweeks.

The Department of Labor (DOL) highlighted the increasing importance of workplace flexibility with the creation of an online Workplace Flexibility Toolkit. The toolkit supplies employers, job seekers, employees, policymakers and researchers with over 170 resources devoted to promoting programs for providing workplace flexibility.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), an employee with a covered disability may be entitled to some form of flexible work arrangement as a reasonable accommodation to enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the job. Even absent a legal obligation, employers may have economic incentives to provide employees with flexible work arrangements, such as to keep competitive, increase employee morale and get workers out on leave or workers' compensation back to work sooner.

An employer should follow these steps for handing an employee's accommodation request for a flexible work arrangement.