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Are employers obligated to accommodate requests to work from home?

Emily Putnam
Created: July 22, 2020 06:23 PM

NEW YORK (WHEC) — Some employers made accommodations back in March for parents to work from home and be with their kids, but that might not be the case in September when it’s time to go back to school.

In New York State, employers are under no obligation to accommodate parents who desire to work from home to be with their kids, unless an individual qualifies under the Americans with Disabilities Act. 

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School districts have to submit their back to school plans to the state – whether they’re in-person, hybrid, or distance learning – by the end of this month.

We’ll know more once those plans are either approved or denied by the state in the first week of August.

While we wait for those answers, there are a number of things employers can do to prepare for inquiries about work from home scenarios from parents. 

First, survey employees about their concerns and their needs.

Then, priorities work from home requests from employees with disabilities, compromising medical conditions, and parents of high-risk children. Handle all other requests after that. 

In anticipation of these requests, employers can also consider increasing hiring efforts if they’re able, staggering shifts to allow for more coverage, or creating more grassroots solutions for employees (such as coordinating childcare and work schedules among employees who have kids in the same district).

If you’re a parent and you’re concerned about the fall, for the time being, the best solution is to reach out to your employer and start a dialogue about what your concerns are, and what they’re doing to prepare.


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