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Telecommuting May Not Be a Reasonable Accommodation

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to qualified applicants or employees known to have a disability. A reasonable accommodation is basically an adjustment or modification an employer provides to enable individuals with disabilities to have equal employment opportunities. Of course, accommodations vary depending on what each individual needs, and not all individuals with disabilities will need the same accommodations. In a case out of Louisiana, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that an employee’s request to telecommute because of his medical condition was not reasonable under the circumstances.

Credeur v. State of Louisiana

The case of Credeur v. State of Louisiana shows that even attorneys can have employment issues. In that case, a trial litigator working with the Louisiana attorney general’s office had a kidney transplant and then suffered some complications afterward. Her employer allowed her to work from home on a temporary basis while recovering from the initial transplant surgery. However, after a few months of telecommuting, her employer denied her request to continue working in that manner. Instead, they required her to spend at least 3 to 4 hours each day working in the office, to the extent she could tolerate it.

The basis of Credeur’s lawsuit for failure to accommodate

Credeur subsequently filed a lawsuit claiming failure to accommodate, as well as harassment and retaliation, under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The trial court dismissed the case on summary judgment because it determined that regular in-office attendance constituted an essential function of her job as a trial litigator. In other words, working from home for a continuous period of time could not be a reasonable accommodation.

Not every requested accommodation is reasonable

The unfortunate reality for some employees is that their employers may often refuse to provide reasonable accommodations when an employee is suffering from an illness or injury. Battling a serious medical condition or recovering from a severe injury is often stressful enough. But when an employer denies the most basic of reasonable accommodations, federal laws are often the only means for seeking assistance. Yet, another reality is that not all requests for accommodation are actually reasonable. Employees must remember that their opinions alone about the reasonableness of the request is not sufficient.

As the case of Credeur v. State of Louisiana shows us, employers are not necessarily obligated to provide an accommodation if it is unreasonable or not legally required, such as working from home when that will not satisfy the employee’s job requirements. While a temporary accommodation of that sort may be reasonable, an employer is not required to provide that type of accommodation forever. The truth is, regular attendance at a job site is typically an essential function of most jobs. If you have concerns about your employer’s refusal to provide a particular accommodation, discuss your situation with a Birmingham employment attorney.

If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Wrady & Michel, LLC. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!