Telecommuting or working at home can be a reasonable accommodation for an employee's disability under the ADA, as the EEOC has recognized, Work At Home/Telework as a Reasonable Accommodation.
There are two key questions in whether telecommuting may be a reasonable accommodation: (1) does the employee's job require the employee to be physically present in the workplace?; and, (2) can the employee perform the job's essential functions by means of telecommuting? A case, Meachem v. Memphis Light, Gas & Water Div., shows how these questions may be considered and resolved.
First, an employee has the obligation to request a reasonable accommodation, which means more than simply informing the employer that he or she has a disability and requires an accommodation. The employee must suggest or request a specific accommodation. What this means is that the employee should suggest an accommodation that would allow them to continue performing the essential functions of his or her job. We discussed this before: Should an Employee Request a Specific Accommodation for His or Her Disability?
The employee in Meachem was a lawyer. Her job description did not indicate that her physical presence in the workplace was essential; furthermore, her actual duties indicated that her position was "primarily a case management and delegation position that did not not require physical presence." So mainly the job duties were document review, case oversight and paper-flow management. As to ability to do the job, there was evidence that the utility had allowed Meachem herself on previous occasions to telecommute as it had also with other legal personnel.
Lexington, Kentucky ADA lawyer Robert Abell represents individuals and employees in disability discrimination cases under the ADA; contact him at 859-254-7076.