August 1, 2006 > Watercooler Counsel
by Rich Proulx
Q: One of my coworkers is allowed to work from his home. When I complained that this is unfair because the rest of us are required to come to the office each day, I was told that he was being "accommodated." I have epilepsy. Shouldn't this mean that I can work at home, too?
A: According to EEOC Investigator Linda Scanlan, under the Americans with Disabilities Act an employer is required to provide reasonable accommodation to enable an individual with a disability to perform the essential functions of the position. This accommodation is unique to each individual, and is based on specific needs. If you require an accommodation for a disability, you should make this known to your employer. When a request for accommodation is made, the employer is required to engage in an informal process to clarify the individual's needs and identify the appropriate accommodation. Remember, there may be several different ways to accommodate your needs and working from home may not be the best option for you.
If, on the other hand, you're asking because you and your coworkers want to work from home for your own personal reasons, the law can't help you. There is no law that requires an employer who modifies a position or creates a new position as an accommodation for someone with a disability to then offer the same modifications or position to its other employees. Unfortunately, accommodations don't work like cupcakes in a classroom. Just because somebody has one, doesn't mean that everyone gets one.
Q: I've just been promoted to a position in human resources and one of my first jobs is to make sure our company is posting the proper legal posters. One company offered to sell us laminated posters, but, since we are required by law to have these notices posted, isn't there a way to get these posters free of charge?
Can't Wait to Get Started
A: EEOC law requires employers, unions, and other covered entities, such as staffing agencies, to post notices describing federal laws prohibiting job discrimination. Posters should be placed in a conspicuous area and be accessible to persons with disabilities. For example, I usually see posters on the wall outside the human resources office and in the employee lounge. And you're right, up to 10 copies of the EEOC poster may be ordered from the website, www.eeoc.gov at no charge. Posters are available in English, Arabic, Chinese, and Spanish. Posters may also be ordered by calling 1-800-669-3362.
The required poster advising of California state laws prohibiting job discrimination is available from the CA Department of Fair Employment and Housing at www.dfeh.ca.gov.
You might begin wondering what you've gotten yourself into with the project, however, because this is just the beginning. For example, posters are required advising employees about family leave, minimum wage, workers' compensation laws, job safety, unemployment insurance, disability leave -- and the list goes on. Requirements for these postings vary depending upon the number of employees in the company. Information and free copies of other required posters are available from the U.S. Department of Labor at (202) 693-0200, www.dol.gov and the California Industrial Relations website at www.dir.ca.gov. As far as I know, none of these posters will be laminated, but they are free.
Try to stump Rich and his team of government experts with your most difficult questions, just bring them on. Send your questions to Rich at Watercooler.Counsel@eeoc.gov. He's a former Supervisory Investigator for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission www.eeoc.gov. Identifying information in the questions may be fictional.