A Capehart Scatchard Blog

Circuit Court Holds Employer Does Not Have to Accomodate Employee’s Commuting Issues

By on September 21, 2012 in FMLA with 0 Comments

Alisha Regan worked for Faurecia Automotive Seating, Inc., as a prototype seat builder.  At the time she began with the company, she lived 24 miles from the plant.  She and her husband then moved to a new home 79 miles from the plant.  Her commute might take two hours or longer.

Regan had been diagnosed for many years with narcolepsy.  Her doctor treated her condition with Ritalin and Provigil.  She would also nap regularly during her lunch hour.  Her narcolepsy was therefore fairly well controlled.

In 2008 the company changed the work schedule in Regan’s department because materials needed for work were not available at 6:00 a.m.  The shift was therefore adjusted from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Regan met with her supervisor and advised that her narcolepsy would make it harder to commute to work as she would now have to face more traffic and she would tire more quickly. She therefore requested that she be permitted to continue to work from 6:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.  Her supervisor advised her that she would have to take leave under the FMLA.

Regan got a note from her physician who advised that it would be in plaintiff’s medical interest to start work earlier at 6:00 a.m. The parties disputed whether plaintiff actually provided the note to the company. The company provided Regan with FMLA paperwork, which she did not complete.  Instead, Regan resigned on September 29, 2008 stating that the new work hours would have tremendous health consequences for her.  She later sued, arguing that the company’s refusal to alter her schedule violated the ADA.

The Court commented that plaintiff never offered solid proof that her proposed schedule change back to 6:00 a.m. would result in less traffic and a shorter commute.  Aside from this issue, the Court said that other federal courts have consistently held that the ADA does not require an employer to accommodate an employee’s commute.  Courts have held that eliminating barriers in the workplace is required, but not barriers outside the workplace.

The Court held, “Under the facts present here, her proposal of a modified work schedule for purposes of commuting during hours with allegedly lighter traffic is not a reasonable accommodation.”

This case can be found at Regan v. Faurecia Automotive Seating, Inc., 2012 U.S. App. LEXIS 9470 (6th Cir. 2012).  The case reflects the view that commuting issues are largely within the employee’s control.  Requests for commuting changes are not considered job restructuring or workplace modifications as defined by the ADA.

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About the Author

About the Author:

John H. Geaney, a shareholder and co-chair of Capehart Scatchard's Workers' Compensation department, began an email newsletter entitled Currents in Workers’ Compensation, ADA and FMLA in 2001 in order to keep clients and readers informed on leading developments in these three areas of law. Since that time he has written over 500 newsletter updates.

Mr. Geaney is the author of Geaney’s New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Manual for Practitioners, Adjusters & Employers. The manual is distributed by the New Jersey Institute for Continuing Legal Education (NJICLE). He also authored an ADA and FMLA manual as distributed by NJICLE. If you are interested in purchasing the manual, please contact NJICLE at 732-214-8500 or visit their website at www.njicle.com.

Mr. Geaney represents employers in the defense of workers’ compensation, ADA and FMLA matters. He is a Fellow of the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers of the American Bar Association and is certified by the Supreme Court of New Jersey as a workers’ compensation law attorney. He is one of two firm representatives to the National Workers’ Compensation Defense Network. He has served on the Executive Committee of Capehart Scatchard for over ten (10) years.

A graduate of Holy Cross College summa cum laude, Mr. Geaney obtained his law degree from Boston College Law School. He has been named a “Super Lawyer” by his peers and Law and Politics. He serves as Vice President of the Friends of MEND, the fundraising arm of a local charitable organization devoted to promoting affordable housing.

Capehart Scatchard is a full service law firm with offices in Mt. Laurel and Trenton, New Jersey. The firm represents employers and businesses in a wide variety of areas, including workers’ compensation, civil litigation, labor, environmental, business, estates and governmental affairs.

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