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Telecommuting - Reasonable Accomodations??
Jan 27, 1999

Can telecommuting be considered a reasonable accommodation?Some background information. Earlier this year I was having problems and negotiated some reasonable accomodations under ADA with my employer. Since then my performance has been good and bad. Some goals set last year were no longer relevant and my immediate supervisor was not willing to change them. I am about to approach my 20th anniversary, my benefits are good and I'm not willing to abandon them or my health. The company is moving the office. The new location is probably about 25 miles from the current location. I do not own a car as my neighborhood has excellent bus service, especially to the current office location. The new location will add almost an hour more to my commute each way. This additional time will make it virtually impossible to arrange for taking my meds, eating, and getting sufficient sleep. I've been trying to talk to my supervisor about telecommuting but so far he is unresponsive. My job lends itself very well to telecommuting. Would appreciate any insights you can offer me.

Response from Ms. Breuer

As I understand it, you have identified yourself to your employer as a person with a disability and you have successfully negotiated some accommodations under the ADA. Now the office location is about to change, and you believe that your health would be impaired if you had to work each day at the new location. If your supervisor is unresponsive about telecommuting, you have these options: 1. Talk with your human resources director about the accommodation you want. Most supervisors have no training in negotiating reasonable accommodations or the implications of the ADA.

2. Enlist your treating health care provider's help. If your health care provider submits a note indicating that you need these accommodations to be able to continue to work up to expectations, that makes the situation clear to the employer: this is a request corroborated by your physician, and is not just your reluctance to change your work location.

3. If 1 and 2 do not work, call your local office of the EEOC and ask their advice. Or speak with an HIV-knowledgeable attorney. You can find one by contacting your local AIDS service organization.

4. Quite apart from your disability and the ADA, take a serious look at those performance goals you're not meeting. You don't feel that they're still relevant, but apparently your supervisor does. That's a large red flag. Remember that the ADA protects you from being terminated because of your disability, or based on your disability. It is not a job guarantee, however. You still face the same challenge every employee faces: negotiating and meeting clear performance goals. Don't risk your health benefits over stubbornness.

Nancy Breuer



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