Yahoo’s New No Telecommuting Rule: Could It Be Unlawful Under the ADA?

By Eric B. Meyer

Over the weekend Kara Swisher on AllThingsD.com reported that Yahoo, under its new leadership, will implement a no-telecommuting rule, effective June 1.

Swisher posted a copy of the internal Yahoo memorandum to its employees, in which the company underscores the “critical” need to be at the office versus working form home where “speed and quality are often compromised.”

Sounds good in theory. But I have a little monkey-wrench.

How about the Americans with Disabilities Act?

Under the ADA, an employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to disabled employees where doing so will allow them to perform the essential functions of their job. As I’ve written here before, telecommuting may be a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability.

How can a business determine whether telecommuting is a reasonable accommodation?

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Well, it all begins with an individualized assessment of the employee and an interactive dialogue to discuss whether telecommuting is reasonable under the particular facts and circumstances affecting the employee. Conversely, generalizations and other other inflexible attendance rules, have gotten other employers into trouble.

Maybe Yahoo has a reasonable-accommodation policy that will trump its new edict. Otherwise, its new rule may be a recipe for disaster.

For more on telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation, check out this EEOC resource. And, here is a little more from that Yahoo memo on this new no-telecommuting policy:

To become the absolute best place to work, communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side. That is why it is critical that we are all present in our offices. Some of the best decisions and insights come from hallway and cafeteria discussions, meeting new people, and impromptu team meetings. Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home. We need to be one Yahoo!, and that starts with physically being together.

Beginning in June, we’re asking all employees with work-from-home arrangements to work in Yahoo! offices. If this impacts you, your management has already been in touch with next steps. And, for the rest of us who occasionally have to stay home for the cable guy, please use your best judgment in the spirit of collaboration. Being a Yahoo isn’t just about your day-to-day job, it is about the interactions and experiences that are only possible in our offices.”

This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.

You know that scientist in the action movie who has all the right answers if only the government would just pay attention? Eric B. Meyer, Esq. gets companies HR-compliant before the action sequence. Serving clients nationwide, Eric is a Partner at FisherBroyles, LLP, which is the largest full-service, cloud-based law firm in the world, with approximately 210 attorneys in 21 offices nationwide. Eric is also a volunteer EEOC mediator, a paid private mediator, and publisher of The Employer Handbook (www.TheEmployerHandbook.com), which is pretty much the best employment law blog ever. That, and he's been quoted in the British tabloids. #Bucketlist.

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