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Coming Into Work is an “Essential Function”

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently held that an employer’s judgment on what was an essential function should be given the “greatest weight.”

Renee Credeur worked as an attorney for the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office (AGO). She took an FMLA leave for five months following her kidney transplant. At the end of her leave, she was granted the accommodation of working from home as part of the AGO’s effort to comply with the ADA. However, at a certain point, Ms. Credeur’s working from home became an issue. She could not keep up with her caseload or complete certain administrative tasks. She was advised that she had to come into the office for 3-4 hours each day and could not work from home. Ms. Credeur did not return to work, instead she needed more leave to deal with a kidney infection. The AGO formally denied her request to work from home and she sued for failure to accommodate, disability based harassment and retaliation under the ADA.

The first consideration when presented with an ADA claim was whether Ms. Creduer was qualified for the position. To be qualified, she had to be able to perform the essential functions of the position, with or without reasonable accommodation. Noting that “there is general consensus among courts, including ours, that regular work-site attendance is an essential function of most jobs,” the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals observed that the AGO’s policies showed regular work-site attendance was an essential function of Ms. Credeur’s job. All evidence supported the AGO’s longstanding policy on that issue. Since Ms. Credeur could not be present at the work-site, she was not qualified for the position. Thus, the AGO did not have an obligation to accommodate her.