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July 25, 2011

Working at home is not a reasonable accommodation for a disabled supervisor


Working at home is not a reasonable accommodation for a disabled supervisor
Kvorjak v State of Maine, CA1, 259 F.3d 48

Sometimes granting a disabled employee's request to work at home constitutes a reasonable accommodation of his or her disability. At other times such a request would not constitute a “reasonable accommodation” for the purposes of the Americans With Disabilities Act [ADA].

In the Kvorjak case the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, First Circuit, ruled that allowing an individual who is required to supervise other employees to work at home is not a reasonable accommodation for the purposes of the ADA.

Brian Kvorjak, a State of Maine Employment Claims Adjudicator, sued his former employer, the Maine Department of Labor, contending that its refusal to allow him to work at home as an accommodation of his disability violated the ADA.

Kvorjak is partially paralyzed as a result of spinal bifida. He was successfully employed by the State of Maine for twenty-two years, the last seven and one-half with the Department of Labor's Division of Unemployment Field Services. As the result of an economy move, Kvorjak's workstation was relocated and his ten-minute commute to work jumped to a ninety-minute trip.

Although Kvorjak was offered relocation expenses if he moved closer to his new work location, he refused to do so and he was laid off on June 18, 1997. Instead of relocating, Kvorjak had asked to be permitted to work out of his home.

In response to Kvorjak's allegation that the Department's rejection of his request to work at home violated federal and state disability laws, the State argued that it was not obliged to accommodate Kvorjak because his request to work at home stemmed not from his disability but from a personal preference against moving. It emphasized that Kvorjak could not, in any event, perform the essential functions of the claims adjudicator position from his home.

The federal district court concluded as a matter of law that Kvorjak could not perform “several important functions” of the position while working at home. The Circuit Court affirmed the lower court's ruling, pointing out that the individual has the burden of proposing an accommodation that would enable him or her to perform his or her job effectively and is, at least on the face of things, reasonable.

The ruling states that the record demonstrated that the essential functions of a claims adjudicator cannot be performed at an individual employee's home. As Kvorjak failed to introduce any evidence to rebut this, the Circuit Court said that he failed to meet his burden and, thus, granting summary judgment to the State was appropriate.

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