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Legal Briefing: Guidance on Home Work and Leaves of Absence

Employers should remain informed with applicable state laws and regulations for distinctions of how employers are required to make a reasonable attempt to accommodate employees with disabilities.

January 7, 2014

According to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, allowing an employee to work from home may be a required reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. In considering such a request, employers must review the role of face-to-face contact with customers/clients and co-workers/supervisors; direct supervision of employees; and whether documents, equipment and/or programs are accessible remotely or only available at work; and whether telework is offered to other employees. Employers are not required to use an employee’s preferred accommodation if another accommodation would suffice. The EEOC’s “Work At Home/Telework as a Reasonable Accommodation” is available at eeoc.gov/facts/telework.html.

Leaves of absence may also qualify as a reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities if the worker returns to work in the foreseeable future. While most federal courts have held that indefinite leaves are not a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, a New York State Court of Appeals held that an indefinite leave could be reasonable unless an employer can show that the leave would cause undue hardship. Giuseppe Romanello v. Intesa Sanpaolo, No. 152 N.Y. Ct. App. (Oct. 10, 2013).

Impact: Employers should remain informed with applicable state laws and regulations for distinctions of how employers are required to make a reasonable attempt to accommodate employees with disabilities.

James E. Hall, Mark T. Kobata and Marty Denis are partners in the law firm Barlow, Kobata and Denis, which has offices in Los Angeles and Chicago. To comment, email editors@workforce.com. FollowWorkforce on Twitter at @workforcenews.