One of the thorniest legal issues facing employers today involves employee requests to telecommute. Although some jobs lend themselves to telecommuting on either a part- or full- time basis, the vast majority of jobs require regular attendance in the workplace. This is particularly true when it comes to jobs that require teamwork and interaction with coworkers, customers or business partners.
In 2005 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued informal guidance on telecommuting as a form of reasonable accommodation. (“Work At Home/Telework as a Reasonable Accommodation,” EEOC, Oct. 27, 2005). The guidance makes clear that telecommuting may not be appropriate in situations where an employee’s job requires “face-to-face interaction and coordination of work with other employees” or “in-person interaction with outside colleagues, clients or customers,” or the particular position “requires the employee to have immediate access to documents or other information located only in the workplace.” Since the guidance was issued, however, the EEOC has aggressively pursued claims where the employer relied on these reasons for denying telecommuting. By doing so, the EEOC put at issue the employer’s right to determine how a job is most effectively performed, and argued that regular attendance at the workplace is not an essential function even when the employer has historically and consistently required on-site performance.
Click to read full article: Take Care When Offering Telecommuting as a Reasonable Accommodation (subscription required)