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Disability Action Center NW

Telework from a home office may be a reasonable accommodation

Allowing someone with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity to work at home may be a reasonable accommodation when the person’s disability prevents successfully performing the job on-site.

Looking through French doors into a home office.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that allowing an individual with a disability to work at home may be a form of reasonable accommodation.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has a great info sheet onWork At Home: Telework as a Reasonable Accommodation. I have been lucky enough to have this type of accommodation provided to me thanks to the very cooperative employer. As a writer, this type of accommodation works perfectly for both my employer and me because all incoming assignments and outgoing work can be transmitted through telecommunications.

In its 1999 Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (revised 10/17/02), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said that allowing an individual with a disability to work at home may be a form of reasonable accommodation. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodation for qualified applicants and employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodation is any change in the work environment or in the way things are customarily done that enables an individual with a disability to apply for a job, perform a job, or gain equal access to the benefits and privileges of a job. The ADA does not require an employer to provide a specific accommodation if it causes undue hardship, i.e., significant difficulty or expense.

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 and the job, or parts of the job, can be performed at home without causing significant difficulty or expense.

Click here for the EEOC fact sheet explaining the ways that employers may use existing telework programs or allow an individual to work at home as a reasonable accommodation.

Here is some additional information about The ADA: Your Employment Rights as an Individual With a Disability and Job Applicants and the Americans with Disabilities Act.

If you have Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and need accommodations in the workplace, the ADA laws and EEOC provide great guidelines if your employer is cooperative and willing to provide accommodations. Unfortunately, the laws are weak and pretty much useless if your employer is not willing to provide anything for you. If your employer or perspective employer is unwilling to provide accommodations, it can be a really tough fight for you to secure your disability rights even with legal representation. We have members in our community who have been let go from their jobs simply because the employer did not want to bother with providing a safe, nontoxic work environment. It’s very sad when that happens and can lead to untold suffering and hardship when the person cannot secure another job. That said, we do have many people in our canary community who have asked for, often pressed for, and received accommodations at their workplace, so I always encourage people disabled by MCS to try to work with their employer to secure accommodations.

A great resource to support you in working with your employer on accommodations is the wonderful website and staff at the Job Accommodations Network. They have specific informational pages dedicated to Multiple Chemical Sensitivity and workplace accommodations.
Take a look at these two posts for more information about JAN:Chemical sensitivities in the workplace and Workers rights and chemical sensitivity.

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