COTW #32 - Telecommuting as an ADA accommodation

Today’s Case-of-the-Week — Bilinsky v. American Airlines (7th Cir 06/26/2019) [PDF] —caught my eye because it involved the controversial question of whether telecommuting can be a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Well, of course, the answer always is “It depends.”

Here an employee with MS successfully telecommuted from her home in Chicago, while the on-site department was in Dallas. That worked out fine until the Dallas department began changing the nature of its work. Previously it was mainly preparing various written materials. Then it began staging live events in Dallas, and doing crisis management. So the boss began requiring the employee to be on site in Dallas.

The 7th Circuit split 2-1. The majority supported granting summary judgment for the employer on the basis that the employee could not perform the essential functions of the job (i.e., being on site).

The dissent would have let the case go to a jury to decide whether being on site really was an essential function.

Personally, I thought the majority was a little too quick to take a crucial fact-finding function away from the jury. 7th Amendment, and all that.