On September 7, 2021, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filed a lawsuit against ISS Facility Services, Inc., a workplace experience and facility management company headquartered in Texas, alleging violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). This case marks the agency’s first disability accommodation lawsuit connected to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is one employers should keep an eye on as they continue to shift employees from remote work back to the office.
Beginning in May 2020, ISS Facility Services required all employees to work from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In June 2020, employees were required to return to working at the company’s facility.
The EEOC alleges that Ronisha Moncrief, who had recently been diagnosed with obstructive lung disease, requested an accommodation to continue working from home for two days per week because her past and recent bouts with severe pulmonary disease made her high risk for contracting COVID-19. The company allegedly denied Moncrief’s request for an accommodation, though it allowed other managers to work from home. About a month and a half after Moncrief’s request was denied, the company terminated Moncrief for performance issues. The EEOC seeks a permanent injunction against the company and its officers from engaging in disability discrimination and retaliation, back pay, compensation for past and future pecuniary and non-pecuniary losses, punitive damages, and the Commission’s costs in bringing this lawsuit.
This case illustrates the EEOC’s view that if an employee has a disability that puts the employee at higher risk of contracting or becoming seriously ill from COVID-19, and it is possible for the employee to perform the essential functions of the job from home, then allowing the employee to telework may be a reasonable accommodation. However, courts have often sided with employers on such telework requests. But one thing that is clear is that this will remain a battleground issue for the EEOC, employers, and employees.
EEOC v. ISS Facility Services, Inc., No. 1:21-CV-3708-SCJ-RDC (N.D. Ga. Sept. 7, 2021)