When I wrote last week that telework was “in the air” because we were anxiously awaiting the en banc Sixth Circuit decision in EEOC v. Ford Motor Company, little did I know that the decision was likely getting a final review before its release, which occurred on Friday.
Common sense trumps the EEOC’s position on telework, the Court said, in the most significant decision on the subject in the 25-year history of the ADA. The EEOC had alleged that the company failed to provide a reseller with a reasonable accommodation by denying her request to work at home up to four days per week. The Sixth Circuit affirmed the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the company. EEOC v. Ford Motor Company, 6th Cir. April 10, 2015).
“Much ink has been spilled establishing a general rule that, with few exceptions, ‘an employee who does not come to work cannot perform any of his job functions, essential or otherwise,’” the court said. “[M]ost jobs require the kind of teamwork, personal interaction, and supervision that simply cannot be had in a home office situation,” the court noted.
The court suggested that stepping back from the legal analysis provides perspective. “Non-lawyers would readily understand that regular on-site attendance is required for interactive jobs.” “[E]quipped with a 1400-or-so page record, standards of review, burdens of proof, and a seven-factor balancing test, the answer may seem more difficult,” the court added.
The court said that its holding that “[r]egular, in-person attendance is an essential function—and a prerequisite to essential functions—of most jobs,” is supported by “case law from around the country, the statute’s language, its regulations, and the EEOC’s guidance.”