In the past several months, millions of American workers have made the transition to working from home. Employees and employers alike have had to adapt quickly to the change in working conditions. One major factor that employers have had to address is what to do regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for employees who work remotely.

Brave new remote world

Under the ADA, employers with at least 15 employees must provide reasonable accommodations for employees who have disabilities. It mandates reasonable accommodations whether an employee requests to work from home or whether the employer implements work-from-home policies.

As workers adjust to their new at-home work setup discovered the accommodations they would need, employers have scrambled to catch up. With many commercial industries under tight limitations, ordering certain products can take much longer than usual. This has put many employers in a bind when it comes to providing certain accommodations in a timely manner.

Reasonable accommodations and remote work

In an office setting, reasonable accommodations often include installing ramps, providing computer screen readers or allowing guide dogs. Remote setups, however, often require very different accommodations.

Some of the most common accommodations required for at-home work include:

  • Screen readers
  • Flexible work schedules
  • Traveling sign language interpreters
  • Telecommunication technology that accommodates disabilities

In some situations, telecommunication can be the reasonable accommodation itself. This is particularly prevalent among workers who have autoimmune conditions or other medical conditions that leave them susceptible to contagious airborne illnesses.

An uncertain legal future

The unfamiliar terrain regarding remote work and reasonable accommodations leaves plenty of room for employment law disputes. If a dispute arises between employee and employer, mediation or arbitration will no doubt take much longer than usual since counsel, plaintiffs and defendants may need to communicate remotely. Courts continue to prioritize only the most pressing of cases. Prevention will be key for both parties.