The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently said it will reconsider an April decision holding that federal disability discrimination law might allow employees with disabilities to work from home under certain circumstances. The Court’s announcement suggests the prior decision may be reversed.
The Americans with Disabilities Act and Ohio employment discrimination law require employers to make reasonable accommodations to workplace policies and procedures when necessary to permit employees with disabilities to perform the essential functions of their jobs. If an accommodation would pose an undue hardship, however, the employer need not grant it.
As I wrote about at the time, in April, the Sixth Circuit held in EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., that under certain circumstances, a reasonable accommodation might include periodically permitting an employee to telecommute—i.e., work from home. Examining the specific facts of the case, the Court held that the employee at issue could perform the essential functions of her job from home, and that physical presence at the office was not always necessary for her to adequately perform the job’s core responsibilities.
On August 29, 2014, the Court of Appeals announced it would rehear the case en banc (meaning before the entire Court as opposed to the original panel of three judges). Announcement of rehearing en banc tends to be a sign that a majority of the Court’s judges disagree with the decision, and likely would have voted differently. A new hearing date has not yet been set as far as I am aware, but I think it is safe to assume that when the decision comes out, the holding with be materially different.
Regardless of the outcome of the Ford Motor Co. rehearing, Ohio employees with a disability will still be entitled to a reasonable accommodation when necessary to perform their jobs, it just might not include telecommuting. If you feel you have been discriminated against on the basis of a disability, contact a Cleveland employment discrimination lawyer as soon as possible.