We posted recently about an Eighth Circuit decision in which the court held that rotating shifts was an essential function because “[i]f [plaintiff] were switched to a straight day shift and not required to work the rotating shift, then other Resource Coordinators would have to work more night and weekend shifts.”
Another court has now held that the impact of an employee’s requested accommodation on co-workers is a factor in determining the essential functions of a position. In EEOC v. Ford Motor Company (E.D. Mo. Sept. 10, 2012), the EEOC argued that “regular attendance was not an essential function” of the plaintiff’s buyer position because she could have performed her job duties at home up to four days per week as an accommodation for her medical condition. In rejecting that argument and granting summary judgment to the employer, the court held that regular attendance was an essential function of the position, in part because plaintiff’s “frequent unpredictable absences negatively affected her performance and increased the workload of her colleagues.”
These two cases suggest an employer should consider raising the “adverse impact on co-workers” of a requested accommodation at both the “essential functions” and “reasonable accommodation” stages of the “qualified individual” analysis.
This case also has helpful analysis on telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation. It cites numerous decisions in support of its conclusion that “in general, courts have found that working at home is rarely a reasonable accommodation”….and that this case did not present “the exceptional case where a work-at-home accommodation would be reasonable.” (emphasis added).