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Posted September 5th, 2012 in Legal Insights

Can Telecommuting Be Required By Law?

In today’s increasingly flexible and mobile workplace, employees are more frequently requesting the opportunity to work from home on a full-time or part-time basis, challenging the long-held employer viewpoint that telecommuting is a mere perk, and contending that, in certain cases, it amounts to a right. Historically, when faced with this question, courts have concluded that employers need not permit telecommuting, even as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act by maintaining that a physical presence in the workplace is essential to almost all jobs in order to supervise, be supervised, attend meetings and otherwise be part of a team. However, in its March ruling in Bixby v. JPMorgan Chase Bank, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois concluded that permitting an employee to work from home could be a reasonable accommodation for disabled employees. In sidestepping the telecommuting precedent, the court stated that at the time of those earlier decisions,  “internet and technology had not yet made remote access to the job site and its operational systems as feasible as it is today.”  Nilan Johnson Lewis Shareholder David James believes that this case signals a change in courts’ perception of telecommuting and recognition that much of intra-office business occurs electronically, even when colleagues are located across the hall. James says, “Although telecommuting gradually has become more acceptable in the workplace, most employers continue to view it as a perk. This decision may force employers to consider on a case-to-case basis whether a particular job can be sufficiently staffed by a telecommuter when faced with an accommodation request.” Contact David James at (612) 305-7573 or

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