6th Circuit: Telecommuting Not a Reasonable Accommodation

On Friday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued its decision in EEOC v. Ford Motor Company, No. 12-2484, 2015 WL 1600305 (6th Cir. Apr. 10, 2015), an ADA case involving telecommuting as a reasonable accommodation.  Let’s take a look:
Background

Jane Harris began working for Ford in 2003.  She was a resale buyer.  Resale buyers purchase raw steel from suppliers and resell that steel to parts manufacturers.  At Ford, resale buyers frequently meet with suppliers, parts manufacturers and other Ford employees to conduct business in-person on site.  Additionally, resale buyers frequently meet with suppliers at their sites.  Although Harris showed promise early in her career, things quickly went downhill.  By her fourth year, she ranked in the bottom 22% of her peer group.  And by the end of her fifth year, she ranked in the bottom 10%.  At this point, Harris was “not performing the basic functions of her position.”  According to her supervisors, she lacked interpersonal skills, performed poor quality work and had chronic problems with attendance.  By 2009, Harris was absent from work more often than she was present.  And when she did come to work, she frequently came late and left early.

Harris attributed her performance and attendance problems to her irritable bowel syndrome.  Ford tried to help:  Ford put Harris on a special schedule of four 10-hour days a week and allowed her to telecommute on an as needed basis.  But this didn’t work:  Harris never kept consistent work hours, whether at home or on-site, and she failed to perform her basic job functions.  But Ford kept trying.  Over the next year or more, Ford repeatedly gave Harris additional chances to try telecommuting.  But this never worked.  Harris’s […]

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