Here’s a question that recently came into FELTG’s mailroom:

In granting or denying a reasonable accommodation request for telework, does it make any difference if the employee’s only disability-related problem is his commute to work? Hypothetically, he does not have any problem performing his job once he gets to work.

And our reply:

Thanks for your email; we get various versions of this question quite a lot (see a recent Ask FELTG about accommodating an individual with telework because the Metro station near his home was closed). In recent years, EEOC has given us clear guidance on the topic.

To be entitled to 100 percent telework as a reasonable accommodation, the employee must show:

1. Their disability makes it impossible for them to get to the physical work site, and

2. The essential functions of their position can be performed from home.

Here are a couple of cases to get you started:

Lavern B v. HUD, EEOC No. 0720130029 (2015): EEOC “precedent clearly has established that a request for telecommuting or a shorter commuting time because of a disability triggers an Agency’s responsibility under the Rehabilitation Act.” This doesn’t mean the employee will always be granted telework, but this means the agency is obligated to go through the reasonable accommodation process with the employee who is requesting telework or an alternate work location because the commute exacerbates his medical condition. In this case, EEOC found that commuting to work is a major life activity. Because of the complainant’s spinal condition, the agency was required to consider accommodating his physical inability to commute the longer distance to the office.

Doria R. v. NSF, EEOC Appeal No. 0120152916 (2017): “[P]roviding disabled employees with the reasonable accommodations [sic] of telecommuting is consistent with the Rehabilitation Act’s goal of assuring ‘equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency’ for individuals with disabilities.” In this case, the employee had cancer that metastasized to her bones. Driving or riding in a car was deemed by her physician to be too dangerous because of the condition of her skeleton, and the agency erred by not considering her request for 100 percent telework.

We’ll be tackling this topic in more detail on Feb. 16 during the two-hour class Reasonable Accommodation: Meeting Post-pandemic Challenges in Your Agency. We hope you’ll join us!

Have a question? Ask FELTG.

The information presented here is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. Contacting FELTG in any way/format does not create the existence of an attorney-client relationship. If you need legal advice, you should contact an attorney.

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