Less than a year ago, I blogged about Yahoo!'s headline making hire of a pregnant CEO, Marissa Mayer. She took an abbreviated leave and worked from home during that abbreviated leave. Now, despite the technology that permitted her to work from home during that leave, Yahoo! has abolished its telecommuting policy and has required all employees to report to the office.
Can an employer have a ban against telecommuting? The Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") would certainly disagree that an employer can have a blanket ban on telecommuting. The ADA requires that an employer consider all reasonable accommodations and provide an accommodation that will enable an employee in performing the essential functions of the position. Such things as altering policies concerning food at desks, change in schedules, leaves, reduced hours, modifying duties, etc. have all been found to be reasonable accommodations. Several courts and the EEOC take the position that where the work is performed is just another policy that may have to be modified for certain jobs and certain employees.
What this means is that before your company implements a blanket prohibition against telecommuting, you should consider your workforce, your corporate culture and the ADA. A better way to consider banning telecommuting would be the following policy:
The Company generally expects employees to work from their assigned office, but the Company will consider telecommuting requests based on the needs of the business, the nature of the position and applicable law.