Can my employer make me go back to work in an office setting?

Gordon Law Group

The biggest issue is understanding why you were out of the office setting to begin with.

In many cases, employers have the right to determine the terms and conditions of employment, including the location where work is performed. If your employment contract or company policies require you to work in an office setting, your employer generally has the authority to ask you to return to the office, unless there are specific legal restrictions or accommodations that apply to your situation.

If, for example, you were away from the office because of COVID restrictions, those have ended, and generally your employer can require you to return to work.

If, however, you were away from the office because of a reasonable accommodation related to your own personal medical conditions or disability, or your need to take care of someone in your family who has medical requirements, then certain laws may protect you from being forced to return to work.Laws that require reasonable accommodations for medical conditions or disabilities can indeed impact an employer’s ability to require employees to work in an office setting. These laws are typically designed to protect individuals from discrimination based on their disabilities and to ensure they have equal opportunities in the workplace.

Under reasonable accommodation laws, employers are generally required to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, including those related to medical conditions, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer. Reasonable accommodations can include modifications to the work environment, changes to job duties, or flexible work arrangements.

If you have a medical condition or disability that necessitates a modification to your work environment, such as working remotely or in a different setting, you may be entitled to request a reasonable accommodation from your employer. The employer is then obligated to engage in an interactive process to discuss your needs and assess whether the requested accommodation is reasonable and can be implemented without causing undue hardship to the business.

Or, maybe you have religious restrictions that prohibit you from being in an office.  Much like the laws for reasonable accommodations related to a medical condition or disability, you can request reasonable accommodation related to a religious beliefs and practices.

It’s also worth noting that some jurisdictions may have laws and regulations that govern workplace safety and health, which may require employers to take necessary precautions to protect their employees. This could include implementing measures to prevent the spread of illnesses, providing a safe working environment, or offering flexible work arrangements when appropriate.

If you have concerns about returning to the office or if you believe your employer is not adhering to legal requirements or accommodating specific needs, it’s advisable to consult with an employment lawyer who has experience dealing with reasonable accommodation requests and other workplace concerns.

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