Saturday, May 24, 2014

Physical Presence and the ADA

6th Cir

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I was recently made aware of a new federal appellate decision out of the Sixth Circuit which may be of significant interest to many of you. In EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., the court considered the extent to which an employee needed to be present at work to perform the job under the ADA. In the case, which involved a “resale buyer,” the court concluded that an individual with Irritable Bowel Syndrome should have been permitted to work at home as a reasonable accommodation given today's technological advances.  The court noted that

“The assumption implicit in the dissent’s analysis and many of the early cases is that the “workplace” is the physical worksite provided by the employer. When we first developed the principle that attendance is an essential requirement of most jobs, technology was such that the workplace and an employer’s brick-and-mortar location were synonymous. However, as technology has advanced in the intervening decades, and an ever-greater number of employers and employees utilize remote work arrangements, attendance at the workplace can no longer be assumed to mean attendance at the employer’s physical location.”

Though the court here sided with the employee, it did note that, “[d]etermining whether physical presence is essential to a particular job is a “highly fact specific” question.”  It will be interesting to see if other courts follow suit on the work at home question, and whether changing technologies will result in a shift in this area of the law.


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