Is Allowing Disabled Employees To Work From Home A Reasonable Accommodation Under ADA?
For more than two decades, our Marion County, Florida employee rights attorneys have litigated employment law cases in Florida courts. Through their years of experience representing employees, our Ocala, Florida employee rights lawyers know that employers frequently refuse to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations that would enable them to perform the essential functions of their employment position. In far too many cases, instead of providing disabled employees with reasonable accommodations that would allow them to continue working, employers summarily terminate their employment. In this article, our Marion County, Florida employee rights lawyers explain how the recent decision in Laguerre v. National Grid USA,Case No. 20-3901 (2d Cir. Mar. 11, 2022) demonstrates that employers may be required by federal employment discrimination law to accommodate disabled employees by allowing them to work from home.
Disabled Employees’ Rights
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of disability. To protect the rights of disabled employees, the ADA also imposes a reasonable accommodation requirement on employers. Under the ADA, employers must provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations that will enable them to perform the essential functions of their job. Reasonable accommodations under the ADA include job restructuring, part-time or modified work schedules, reassignment to a vacant position, and acquisition or modification of equipment. An employer that fails or refuses to provide a disabled employee with an accommodation unlawfully discriminates against the employee because of disability, unless the employer can demonstrate that an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of its business. Accommodations that present undue hardships are unreasonable accommodations for purposes of the ADA. An “undue hardship,” as explained in McMillan v. City of New York, 711 F.3d 120 (2d Cir. 2013), is “an action requiring significant difficulty or expense.”
Employment Discrimination Lawsuit
In Laguerre, a woman named Laguerre brought an employment discrimination lawsuit against her former employer, National Grid USA (National Grid), pursuant to the ADA. Laguerre claims that National Grid unlawfully discriminated against her because of her disability when it failed to accommodate her work-from-home request or transfer her to a different position within the company in violation of the ADA.
Laguerre, who has lupus, worked for National Grid as a Customer Service Representative (CSR) receiving inbound calls. Laguerre was part of a discrete group of 155 CSR’s employed by National Grid whose job involves only taking inbound customer calls. During her employment with National Grid, Laguerre made two distinct accommodation requests. First, Laguerre requested a transfer from her position as a CSR to a different job. Second, Laguerre requested to work from home.
National Grid denied Laguerre’s requests to transfer to a different position and work from home. In denying Laguerre’s request to work from home, National Grid did not contend that Laguerre needed to be physically present in the office to perform the essential duties of her CSR job. Instead, National Grid maintained that it lacked the technology to accommodate Laguerre’s remote work request.
The trial court dismissed Laguerre’s disability discrimination claim. The trial court ruled that Laguerre failed to identify an existing vacant position to which she could have been reassigned as an accommodation for her disability. The trial court further ruled that Laguerre’s accommodation request to work from home would have posed an undue burden on National Grid and, thus, constituted an unreasonable accommodation under the ADA. Because the request to work from home was an unreasonable accommodation under the ADA, the trial court reasoned, National Grid did not have to provide it.
Remote Work Is Reasonable Accommodation
On appeal, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the trial court’s dismissal and reinstated Laguerre’s disability discrimination claim. In reversing the trial court’s decision, the Second Circuit determined that a reasonable jury could find that National Grid discriminated against Laguerre because of her disability when it failed to accommodate her work-from-home request. In support of its conclusion, the appellate court explained that in requesting to work from home, Laguerre proposed a “reasonable accommodation that would allow her to continue performing the essential functions of her position,” that “it was plausible for CSR’s to work from home,” and that “the technology to enable a work-from-home arrangement was not, on its face, unobtainable for National Grid.”
The Second Circuit also rejected National Grid’s argument that allowing Laguerre to work from home would impose an undue hardship on the operation of its business “because the company did not possess the requisite technology at the time of her request.” In rejecting National Grid’s undue burden contention, the court of appeals pointed out that a reasonable accommodation under the ADA may include “acquisition or modification of equipment or devices.” National Grid, the appellate court noted, “did not state that the technology was unavailable or unreasonably expensive.” Nor did National Grid “provide any evidence regarding the costs of acquiring technology that would enable Laguerre to work from home, much less an analysis to demonstrate that the cost of such an endeavor would exceed its benefits.” To demonstrate an undue burden under the ADA, the Second Circuit explained, “it is incumbent upon the employer to provide a more robust defense of its position.”
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Marion County, FL Employee Rights Lawyers
Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers throughout Florida, our employee rights attorneys in Marion County, Florida have dedicated their practice to representing employment discrimination victims. If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace or have questions about your employee rights under federal employment discrimination law, please contact our office for a free consultation with our employee rights lawyers in Marion County, Florida. Our employee rights law firm takes employment law cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.