EEOC Office of Legal Counsel staff members wrote the following informal discussion letter in response to an inquiry from a member of the public. This letter is intended to provide an informal discussion of the noted issue and does not constitute an official opinion of the Commission.
ADA: Reasonable Accommodation
September 27, 2001
This is in response to your e-mail of August 27, 2001, in which you asked if an employer could require that an employee take leave as a reasonable accommodation rather than granting the employee's request to work at home for a fixed period of time.
Your e-mail states that the employee has a job with tasks that you believe can be performed at home, such as preparing invoices. Nevertheless, you wish to know if the employer could instead decide to offer a leave of absence to the employee and backfill the employee's job.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that employers provide reasonable accommodation "that enable a qualified individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of [a] position." 29 C.F.R. § 1630.2(o)(1)(ii). Where two or more forms of accommodation are possible, the EEOC has encouraged employers to provide the one preferred by the individual, but an employer can make the final decision as long as the accommodation that the employer chooses is effective in addressing the individual's limitations. (1)
Both leave and working at home are forms of reasonable accommodation. (2) However, they are not equally effective because only one - working at home -- allows the employee to perform his job. You state that the job can be performed from home and you do not suggest that this accommodation will cause undue hardship. In this situation, requiring an employee to take a leave of absence rather than granting the request to work at home, and then backfilling the employee's position, would be a violation of the ADA because the employer would be forcing
the employee to accept a less effective form of accommodation and depriving a qualified employee of his job.
I hope that this information is helpful. This letter does not represent an official opinion of the EEOC.
Senior Attorney Advisor
1. See Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodation and Undue Hardship Under the Americans with Disabilities Act at 18, 8 FEP Manual (BNA) 405:7610 (1999).
2. See id. at 26-32, 46-47, 8 FEP Manual (BNA) 405:7614-18, 7626.
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