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Workers Take Action Over Return to the Office Policies

According to The Washington Post, more employees are taking their fight for remote work to court and federal labor agencies such as the NLRB and the EEOC. Some companies have taken a hard line and require employees to come into the office either full-time or on a hybrid schedule. Workers assert these mandates can be "unjust, discriminate against people with disabilities, and are retaliatory actions against unionization efforts." Employers state that coming to the office is “necessary, as it improves company culture, collaboration, and productivity." Notwithstanding these return-to-office policies, the actual number of employees working in the office is not getting much higher. In March 2024, about 23% of employees returned to the office compared to 19.5% last year.

The Post interviewed Zacchery Belval, a Connecticut designer with congenital heart disease and severe anxiety. His employer terminated Belvel's employment when he refused to return to the office. Belvel submitted doctor's notes to support his medical need to work from home, but the employer said Belval’s job duties required him to come in. He filed a lawsuit questioning whether working in the office was an “essential” job duty and whether remote work was a “reasonable accommodation.” Two federal circuit courts have issued decisions that support remote work as a reasonable accommodation.

Workers from the New York Times, Google, Cognizant, X, Grindr, and The Washington Post have filed NLRB complaints alleging retaliation based on union efforts, unlawful dismissal for criticizing an office mandate, and failure to bargain over the issue. Grindr, a dating app, lost 45% of its staff after requiring employees to move so that they can work in assigned offices two days a week. Their workers filed a charge. It is unclear how successful these legal efforts to push back on mandates will be.