Ever get the feeling that life would be a little easier if you could be in two places at once? After all, it seems like the norm these days: the weather report is calling for another nor’easter, the trains are down, the roads are iced over, but you’re expected to be at your desk at 9:00 a.m. rain or shine. Or maybe your daughter has been rehearsing for months just to see your proud face sitting front-row at her recital, but you have a 4:00 p.m. conference call that you just can't miss. Or perhaps a temporary disability, like recovering from a recent surgery, is preventing you from making the trek into the office and you feel that you are being discriminated against at work because of this. What's the solution?
With today’s technological advancements, working from home or telecommuting could be a viable option for those days where you cannot be two places at once.
While some companies are supportive of flexible work schedules, unfortunately, the “working from home” arrangement is not widely accepted. In fact, a common complaint that we hear from our clients is that working from home is frowned upon in their industry. Sometimes, a company is inconsistent in their policies, where the opportunity to work from home is afforded to some departments but not others. Whether a company is obligated to allow an employee to work from home depends on a number of different circumstances.
If an employer allows certain employees to work from home but not others, there may be a question of whether it is illegally discriminating against a protected class of employees. Whether this is intentional or "de facto" is immaterial. Put another way, if the company's facially-neutral policies are being enforced in a way that means women (or another protected class) aren't allowed to work from home but men usually are, the company is violating the law.
Generally, your line of business and its industry standards can also play a part in dictating your company’s stance on its broadly-applicable working-from-home policy. Exceptions, however, can be required when a request to work from home is made as a suggested accommodation for a disability. In those cases, there are Federal and State Employment Law statutes, like the Americans with Disabilities Act and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, that have been enacted to protect employees who request workplace accommodations for a disability, as long as the request does not pose an undue hardship on the employer. An employer's failure to provide reasonable accommodations can be illegal and subject your employer to liability.
An Employment Law Attorney will be able to help you navigate the Federal and State laws and ascertain whether a working form home accommodation could work for you. An attorney can also help identify an instance where you might have been discriminated against in the workplace as well. Contact the Mark Law Firm at 908-626-1001 or through www.newjerseyattorneys.com, for a personalized consultation.