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Part 1: MY BOSS SAYS . . . he won't discuss working at home as a way to accommodate my disability.

Telecommuting programs are becoming more and more common in the United States.  It goes without saying that telecommuting has the potential to expand employment opportunities for persons with disabilities.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has recognized that allowing a disabled individual to work at home may be a form of reasonable accommodation.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities as well as for qualified applicants.  Reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to apply for a job, perform a job, or gain equal access to the benefits and privileges of a job.  An employer does not have to provide a specific accommodation if it causes undue hardship for the employer.

Obviously, not all jobs can be performed at home.  A waitress, for example, cannot work from home and must be present on-site to serve customers.   Nevertheless, allowing an employee to work at home may be a reasonable accommodation where the person's disability prevents them from successfully performing the job on-site and the job, or parts of the job, can be performed at home without causing significant difficulty or expense to the employer.

Employers are not required to offer telecommuting programs to all their employees.  However, if your employer does offer a telecommuting program, it has to permit disabled employees the opportunity to participate.

Even if your employer does not offer a telecommuting program, working at home may still be a reasonable accommodation and the disabled employee may request it.  This does not mean, however, that the employer must grant that request.  The employer may instead offer an alternative accommodation as long as it would be effective.

Check in next week for Part 2 of this discussion.