WASHINGTON - To mark the second anniversary of President George W. Bush's New Freedom Initiative, the administration's comprehensive plan for the full integration of people with disabilities into all aspects of American life, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today released a fact sheet for employers who are considering allowing an individual with disability to telework as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Telework is a key component in the New Freedom Initiative's strategy for increasing the employment of people with disabilities.
The fact sheet, using a step-by-step approach, explains the ways that employers may allow an individual to work at home as a reasonable accommodation, including through existing company telework (also called telecommuting) programs. The full text of the document is available at www.eeoc.gov.
"The EEOC is very pleased to mark the second anniversary of the New Freedom Initiative with the issuance of this important fact sheet," said EEOC Chair Cari M. Dominguez. "Advances in technology are making telework an increasingly important option for employers who want to attract and retain a productive workforce. For some people with disabilities, telework may actually be the difference between having the opportunity to be among an employer's best and brightest workers and not working at all."
The ADA requires employers to provide "reasonable accommodations" to the physical and mental limitations created by a disability. Employers can utilize existing telework programs to meet this obligation. However, the employer may have to waive certain eligibility requirements, such as rules requiring employees to work for one year before applying to the program, or otherwise modify its telework program for someone with a disability who needs to work at home. Additionally, employers that do not have telework programs may still need to allow an individual employee with a disability to telecommute as a reasonable accommodation.
"The fact sheet provides a guided approach for employers and employees to explore telework and to determine if it would be a workable solution for both parties," said Chair Dominguez.
After an employee requests telework, the employer and employee should discuss why the employee needs telework because of a disability, and whether all or some of the job tasks can be performed from the employee's home. This step is referred to as the "interactive process" under the ADA. Other considerations to explore during this process may include
Not all persons with disabilities need - or want - to work at home. And not all jobs can be performed at home. But, allowing an employee to work at home may be a reasonable accommodation where the person's disability prevents successfully performing the job on-site.
In addition to enforcing Title I of the ADA, which prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments, and the Rehabilitation Act's prohibitions against disability discrimination in the federal government, EEOC enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which prohibits discrimination against individuals 40 years of age or older; the Equal Pay Act; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.