Last week, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals decided to rehear Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Ford Motor Company. Rehearing of a case isn’t necessarily a big deal, but this time it could be. EEOC v. Ford stands for the proposition that telecommuting could be a reasonable accommodation required by disability discrimination laws. With all the Sixth Circuit judges weighing in for the rehearing, that could change.
Jane Harris, a resale buyer for Ford, asked to work from home four days a week as an accommodation for her disability. Her request was based on Ford’s telecommuting policy. Ford determined that her job, which required her to meet with suppliers and other members of her team, could not be done through email or conference calls and denied her request. Shortly thereafter, Ford terminated Ms. Harris. A disability discrimination charge and litigation followed. At first, the Eastern District of Michigan federal court dismissed Ms. Harris’ claims on summary judgment, but on appeal a Sixth Circuit three judge panel reversed that holding, and found that a fact question existed as to whether Ms. Harris could have performed her job remotely. That left the door open for Ms. Harris and future plaintiffs to try to prove that telecommuting is a reasonable accommodation in their case. The full Sixth Circuit may agree with the three judge panel, or it may close the door on Ms. Harris – we’ll wait with interest to see what they do.
The technology exists to allow more and more employees to be able to telecommute. That doesn’t make telecommuting right (or wrong) for every job or every employer. Yahoo and Best Buy rescinded their telecommuting policies finding that face-to-face collaboration and communication were necessary to innovation and problem-solving.
In other developments:
- The Emplawyerologist covered Wal-Mart's failure to promptly and adequately address sexual harassment and refrain from reprisal.
- Failure to update an HR information system resulted in a new lawsuit by the EEOC for retaliation and breach of a mediated settlement agreement.
- Following an investigation by the OFCCP into gender discrimination, a Coca-Cola bottler agreed to pay $475,000 to 1,293 female applicants.
- Could an employer’s monitoring of employee use of its computers spell liability for failure to adequately monitor? An Illinois state appellate court says maybe.
- Entrepreneur forecasts the future of wearable tech in the workplace.
- The New York Times covered the case of Brandon Coats, a medical marijuana user who was terminated following a positive drug test result.
- An internal audit and compliance employee was awarded $300,000 from the SEC for blowing the whistle.
- Current and former Oakland Raider Cheerleaders (aka Raiderettes) will receive between $2,460 to $6,832 per season for the Raider’s failure to pay appropriate wages.
Posted by: Kate Bischoff