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Can telework be a reasonable accommodation?

On Behalf of | Jun 5, 2024 | Employment Law |

In the ever-changing employment landscape, telework or telecommuting, has become a prominent topic. Indeed, over the past 5 years, its popularity exploded throughout New York and many city dwellers found themselves homebound overnight. However, with the shifting landscape throughout the state, many employees and employers are finding themselves wondering if telework can now qualify as a reasonable accommodation.

Understanding reasonable accommodations

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers with 15 or more employees must provide reasonable accommodations for qualified applicants and employees with disabilities. Reasonable accommodations involve any adjustment or modification to a job or work environment that enables a person with a disability to perform essential job functions or enjoy equal employment opportunities.

Telework as a reasonable accommodation

Telework can be a viable form of reasonable accommodation that can potentially enhance employee morale and productivity. However, it is essential to note that not all jobs are suitable for remote work, and not all employees with disabilities require or prefer telecommuting.

When telework can likely be a reasonable accommodation

Telework may be a reasonable accommodation when an employee’s disability prevents them from performing their job on-site, provided that the job can be effectively done from home without causing undue hardship to the employer. Factors such as the nature of the job, the feasibility of performing tasks remotely and the impact on business operations are crucial considerations on whether telework is an appropriate reasonable accommodation.

When telework is likely not an appropriate reasonable accommodation

The ADA does not mandate accommodations that impose undue hardship on employers. Additionally, employers are not obligated to offer telework to all employees if it is not a part of their general work policy.

Telework in New York City

In New York City, the process of determining reasonable accommodations involves a cooperative dialogue between the employer and the employee. This discussion aims to identify appropriate accommodations and may include providing documentation of the employee’s disability. Under the New York City Human Rights Law, employees are not entitled to telework solely to avoid infecting a family member. Nevertheless, employers may choose to allow telework based on a non-discriminatory policy.


Telework can serve as a reasonable accommodation in specific scenarios. Though, it is not universally applicable and should be assessed on an individual basis, taking into account the employee’s needs and the job’s requirements. Employers must engage in a cooperative dialogue to determine the most suitable accommodations, ensuring compliance with both the ADA and NYCHRL.