In May of 2014, three judges from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that telecommuting could be a reasonable accommodation in the case before it. Well, the full panel of that Sixth Circuit has reconsidered the decision and tossed it aside.
The case was against Ford Motor Company. One of its employees, Jane Harris, suffered from irritable bowel syndrome. The impact of this syndrome was that coming into the office was very challenging for her. Ford had a telecommuting policy and had allowed Ms. Harris to telecommute one day a week in accordance with that policy. However, when Ms. Harris asked to telecommute the majority of the time as an accommodation of her disability, Ford refused her request. A lawsuit ensued after Ms. Harris was terminated for attendance and performance issues.
Initially, the Sixth Circuit had found it a question for the jury whether attendance was an essential function of Ms. Harris’ position. Disabled employees must be able to perform the essential functions of their positions, with or without accommodation. After reviewing the case, the full court concluded that Ford had proven regular and predictable onsite attendance was an essential function of Ms. Harris’ job and that working from home extensively was not a reasonable accommodation for her.