Sixth Circuit smacks EEOC on work-from-home accommodation

An 8-5 decision from (these days) one of the nation’s more liberal circuits in EEOC v. Ford Motor Company:

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires employers to reasonably accommodate their disabled employees; it does not endow all disabled persons with a job—or job schedule—of their choosing. Jane Harris, a Ford Motor Company employee with irritable bowel syndrome, sought a job schedule of her choosing: to work from home on an as-needed basis, up to four days per week. Ford denied her request, deeming regular and predictable on-site attendance essential to Harris’s highly interactive job. Ford’s papers andpractices—and Harris’s three past telecommuting failures—backed up its business judgment.

Nevertheless, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued Ford under the ADA. It alleged that Ford failed to reasonably accommodate Harris by denying her telecommuting request and retaliated against her for bringing the issue to the EEOC’s attention. The district court granted summary judgment to Ford on both claims. We affirm.

More: Jon Hyman. On the EEOC’s many rebuffs in federal court, see here, here, here, here, etc.


  • On a quick scan of the opinion, it is quite clear that the plaintiff was a sub-par employee at Ford (to say the very least). It fits a theory of mine, which is that unverifiable “disabilities” like IBS pop up most often among poor performers whose best chance to avoid termination is to claim they are entitled to some protected status under the law. And of course, the EEOC buys this hook, line, and sinker. One would think the EEOC would devote its “limited resources” to the most sympathetic situations, with the most verifiable disabilities. But as this post shows (yet again), the opposite is true. It’s as if they are trying to show that no private hiring/firing decision is beyond federal second-guessing.

  • The EEOC also cannot even conceive that a company like Ford would have any legitimate business need to not grant the requested accomodation, and therefore the only explanation that they can think of is simple plain meanness aggravated by animosity to the disabled.

    It is a common progressive thought pattern – they can’t understand how anyone who is reasonable and compassionate could disagree with them, so anyone who disagrees must be evil. I believe that many religions also work this way.

  • What really hits you when you read the opinion, Ford did everything right here. They attempted to accommodate the employee – following what I consider to be misguided EEOC “guidance” and they still got popped. EEOC employees feel that everyone should be able to telecommute, or work the schedule they want to work. As far as they are concerned, once employed you should be vested for life in your job, regardless of performance or the reality of the business. The ADAAA is an absolute joke – and it has subsumed the FMLA b/c of the EEOC’s ridiculous position that indefinite leave is an appropriate accommodation under the ADAAA regardless of the employee’s qualification for leave under FMLA.

    I also find the article by the Ohio Employment Lawyer troubling as he calls himself a fan of workplace flexibility and believes the opinion to be wrongheaded. In his mind (and the EEOC’s mind) it’s flexibility for me, not for thee.