FAA Telecommuting Setup Could be Disabled Worker's Accommodation

May 8, 2007 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - A federal appellate court has ruled that permitting a disabled worker to continue to work from home may represent a reasonable accommodation by the employer to the employee's special needs.

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for theDistrict of Columbia ruling came in a case involving Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employee Philip Woodruff who charged that the eventual revocation of his agreement with the agency to be able to work from home up to two days per week constituted discrimination and retaliation.   Woodruff worked out the telecommuting arrangement after suffering injuries in a 1995 fall at work.

Appellate judges threw out a lower court ruling dismissing Woodruff’s discrimination claims against the FAA, asserting that Woodruff had put forward a strong enough case for him to be allowed to pursue his litigation further. However, the appellate court upheld the lower court’s dismissal of the retaliation allegation.

In reversing the dismissal by the district court, the appeals court relied on the fact that the FAA had implemented a telecommuting policy, had permitted Woodruff to enjoy this accommodation for many months and granted this accommodation to another team leader in Woodruff’s division.

According to the ruling written by Circuit Judge Janice Rogers Brown, Woodruff complained to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and then sued the FAA when a new supervisor ended his arrangement.

The new FAA manager claimed that while he had temporarily permitted several such accommodations, he had never formally approved a telecommuting arrangement in which Woodruff was permitted to work at home on an indefinite basis.

The ruling inWoodruff v. Peters, D.C. Cir., No. 05-5033 (April 6, 2007)  is  here .