Telecommuting and the Americans with Disabilities Act

A recent decision from the United States 6th Circuit Court of Appeals found that working remotely can be a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers should always remain cautious about applying rigid and inflexible rules to requests for reasonable accommodations.

In Meachem v. Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division, the Plaintiff was an in-house employment attorney for Memphis Light. After a history of miscarriages, her physician placed her on bed rest for the last 10 weeks of her pregnancy. The Plaintiff requested that she be allowed to work from home as an accommodation. Her employer denied the request. The 6th circuit found that she could perform the essential functions of her job remotely for the applicable time period. It also found that other employees had been allowed to work from home without objection. Therefore, the Court upheld the jury verdict in favor of the Plaintiff finding that her employer had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The real lesson from cases such as this is inflexible policies simply do not work with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Employers need to engage in an interactive process to prove and determine whether or not an accommodation is reasonable and does not create an undue hardship. Time and time again employers apply a policy without thought and are found liable. More specifically to this case, working from home with the technologies of the time, could certainly be found to be reasonable in certain circumstances.  Therefore, carefully consider all aspects of any request before deciding whether or not to deny it. If in doubt, discuss the issue with your attorney.

If you have any questions regarding this article, please contact its author, Mark Sauer, at 715-8456-8234 or


Non-Solicitation Agreements Invalidated by Wisconsin Supreme Court as Overbroad

Employers beware. Many employers utilize non-solicitation of employee agreements as standard practice when hiring new employees. Such agreements typically prevent a former employee (in usually a high level or management position) from encouraging current employees to leave the employer to join him or her at their new company. Despite the practicality of these agreements, the Wisconsin Supreme Court has called into question the enforceability of non-solicitation of employee agreements, and employers who utilize these agreements would be wise to reevaluate them in light of the Court’s decision in Manitowoc Company, Inc. v. Lanning, 2018 WI 6 (Jan. 19, 2018). Read More… “Non-Solicitation Agreements Invalidated by Wisconsin Supreme Court as Overbroad”

Waterfront Property Buyers Beware: Buying the Land Doesn’t Guarantee Rights to the Water

In a previous post, we discussed the Court of Appeals’ decision on Movrich v. Lobermeier. As noted, that decision was appealed and heard before the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which recently overturned many of the holdings of the court of appeals. This new opinion is instructive and should cause shoreline property owners and prospective shoreline property owners to pause because of the impact on their rights. Read More… “Waterfront Property Buyers Beware: Buying the Land Doesn’t Guarantee Rights to the Water”

Rounding Time: The Do’s and Don’ts of an Effective Rounding Policy for Wisconsin Employers

A common question that often arises for employment attorneys relates to proper rounding policies for employee time.  A legal policy can be an effective, efficient method of dealing with the issue, while a misstep can lead to significant potential liability, costing an employer thousands of dollars in legal fees, and considerable time and headaches. The best way to avoid this wasted money, time, and frustration is to preemptively review your policies and procedures to ensure they are compliant with the law. Below are things to consider to achieve a compliant rounding policy. Read More… “Rounding Time: The Do’s and Don’ts of an Effective Rounding Policy for Wisconsin Employers”

Changes to Wisconsin’s Conditional Use Permits May Warrant Revisions To Zoning Ordinances

Without much fanfare or public attention, the Wisconsin legislature recently enacted 2017 Wisconsin Act 67.  One component of this legislation was to create and amend statutes pertaining to conditional use permits (CUPs) at the county, town and city levels.  Given the changes to Wisconsin law in this regard, which became effective November 28, 2017, it may necessitate local governments updating, or wholesale revising, their zoning ordinances.  Such revisions may be appropriate to: (1) ensure the ordinances comply with Wisconsin law; (2) try and retain, to the extent still possible, some discretion over the granting of CUPs; and (3) ensure that the conditional uses listed in the ordinance are still acceptable in light of the possibility of some loss of control and discretion as to where and when these may occur. Read More… “Changes to Wisconsin’s Conditional Use Permits May Warrant Revisions To Zoning Ordinances”

Bitcoin in Bankruptcy: Commodity or Currency?

It is hard to peruse media outlets without hearing about bitcoin and other types of cryptocurrency. But what is Bitcoin?  Is it just another form of currency, or is it a commodity? It depends on who you ask, and bankruptcy courts are beginning to weigh in on the subject. Read More… “Bitcoin in Bankruptcy: Commodity or Currency?”

Do I Really Need a Wisconsin Will?

Most people do not like the thought of dying and do not want to dwell on what happens to their assets if they pass away.  Therefore, there is a natural inclination not to want to think about dying, much less, pay somebody to help you set forth a plan on what happens to your assets at death.  Unfortunately, many families find out the hard way the complications that are created upon death by not doing constructive planning before they pass away.  Read More… “Do I Really Need a Wisconsin Will?”

How Long Is Too Long For An Unpaid Leave of Absence As A Reasonable Accommodation?

Employers, for far too long, have been left to guess how long of an unpaid leave they must grant their employees as a reasonable accommodation for a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  While there had been prior decisions that provided some guidance, it seemed every time there appeared to be some basis to figure out ‘how long was too long,’ a contrary decision would come down due to the vague and speculative nature of these circumstances.  In Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc., 2017 WL 4160849 (7th Cir. Sept. 20, 2017), the Seventh Circuit provided some finality to the issue (hopefully). Read More… “How Long Is Too Long For An Unpaid Leave of Absence As A Reasonable Accommodation?”

Balancing Humanity and Liability in the Workplace

A friend, who is a supervisor in a company, shared with me that she was “afraid to care” when it came to the employees she encounters on a daily basis.  She felt that knowing any personal information about her subordinates – whether it be how and ill family member was doing or what he or she did the past weekend – would only lead to knowledge that could invite or support a future claim against the company.  This struggle between wanting to develop professional, interpersonal relationships with subordinates and the fear of providing ammunition for a future discrimination claim is not an uncommon one amongst supervisors.  It struck me as a sad commentary on what the exponential growth of lawsuits in the employment sector has done to the important interpersonal and professional relationships in the workplace. Read More… “Balancing Humanity and Liability in the Workplace”

Five Dollars for a Not-Quite Foot Long: 7th Circuit Tosses Subway Class Action Settlement

On August 25, 2017, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that a settlement agreement entered into between a putative class of consumers and Subway was “utterly worthless” and reversed and remanded the District Court’s Order approving that settlement.  The class had alleged that Subway’s famous Footlong sandwiches often came up short. Read More… “Five Dollars for a Not-Quite Foot Long: 7th Circuit Tosses Subway Class Action Settlement”