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I remember playing ball with all the kids on the street growing up (this was back before all sports were played electronically from the couch). We used a dishrag as first base. Second base would be the shirt of someone’s back, and third base was the edge of a garden bed. And, if the ball hit the electrical wire overhead, it was a do-over. That is what this blog is about. A do-over.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Ohio’s R.C. § 4112.02(A) provides protection to workers to be free from discrimination because they are disabled or perceived to be disabled by their boss. These disability discrimination laws also contain requirements that employers provide accommodations to disabled employees if the accommodation permits the employee to perform the essential functions of his or her job without creating undue hardship for the company.
On June 2, 2014, we blogged about the disability discrimination case that involved providing the accommodation of telecommuting. In EEOC v. Ford Motor Co., the employee, Jane Harris, had been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome, which made her was unable to travel to or remain physically at Ford. At the trial level, Harris submitted evidence that her job’s essential tasks, which focused working as an intermediary between steel suppliers and stamping plants, could successfully be done at her house through the use of email and teleconference. Based on Ford’s “telecommuting policy,” other employees worked from home for up to four days per week.
But the District Court Judge rejected Harris’ argument for accommodation and dismissed her case. The District Court held that it “declin[es] to second-guess an employer’s business judgment regarding the essential functions of a job,” and further held that Harris’s request to telecommute up to four days per week was not a reasonable accommodation for her position.
So, the EEOC appealed. And, low and behold, the United States Sixth District Court of Appeals, in a 2-1 decision, reversed the District Court and held:
When we first developed the principle that attendance is an essential requirement of most jobs, technology was such that the workplace and an employer’s brick-and-mortar location were synonymous. However, as technology has advanced in the intervening decades, and an ever-greater number of employers and employees utilize remote work arrangements, attendance at the workplace can no longer be assumed to mean attendance at the employer’s physical location. Instead, the law must respond to the advance of technology in the employment context, as it has in other areas of modern life, and recognize that the “workplace” is anywhere that an employee can perform her job duties.
Employment discrimination lawyers from near and far rejoiced the widening definition of what can be a reasonable accommodation. Hundreds followed our lead and blogged about how wonder this was. And, then Ford got a do-over. On Tuesday, the a majority of the judges at the United States Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which includes Ohio, voted to rehear the case. This time when the case is reheard, it will not just be three judges but the entire panel of all the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. What does this mean for the effect of the original decision? Per the Order on Tuesday: “The effect of the granting of a hearing en banc shall be to vacate the previous opinion and judgment of this court, to stay the mandate and to restore the case on the docket sheet as a pending appeal.” It would have been much easier with the Judges just called out “do over!”
Having to live with a disability is difficult enough without worrying about the effect it may have on your job. If you are disabled or your employer perceives you as being disabled; and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a disability discrimination lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. You should call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation at 866-797-6040. The Spitz Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting employees’ rights and solving employment disputes.
This employment law website is an advertisement. The materials available at the top of this page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “how do I get a work accommodation for my disability?”, “am I disabled under the ADA?”, “what should I do if…” or “can my boss fired me for …”, it would be best for you to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to disability discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, attorney, Brian Spitz or any individual attorney.