Issue: Before the COVID-19 pandemic, one of your employees, Delilah, had requested to work from home as a reasonable accommodation. She had shown a disability-related need for this accommodation, but her request was denied because of concerns that she would not be able to perform the essential functions remotely. Delilah continued to report to the workplace until the COVID-19 pandemic forced everyone to work remotely. Now that the COVID-19 situation is improving and temporary telework is ending, Delilah has renewed her request for telework as a reasonable accommodation. Can you refuse her request again?
Answer: Maybe. Assuming all the requirements for such a reasonable accommodation are satisfied, the temporary telework experience could be relevant to considering Delilah’s renewed request. In this situation, the period of telework because of the pandemic could serve as a trial period that showed whether she could satisfactorily perform all essential functions while working remotely. The employer should consider any new requests in light of this information. As with all accommodation requests, the employee and the employer should engage in a flexible, cooperative interactive process going forward.
Source: EEOC Guidance: What You Should Know About COVID-19 and the ADA, the Rehabilitation Act and Other EEO Laws, https://www.eeoc.gov/wysk/what-you-should-know-about-covid-19-and-ada-rehabilitation-act-and-other-eeo-laws, reported in Employment Practices Guide, New Developments ¶5526.
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