Is Commute Sickness an Employment Disability?

Robin DiNatale filed a complaint against her employer, the New York State Insurance Fund, for failure to reasonably accommodate her disability when she requested to work from home.  Her disability?  She claimed her 22-mile commute made her sick.  Did the New York State Insurance Fund discriminate against DiNatale by denying her request?

New York’s state appeals court didn’t think so.

First, DiNatale’s choice to commute 22 miles each way was entirely voluntary and occurred outside her job—nor did she work toward solutions to reduce her commute.  For “personal reasons,” she would not consider moving closer to work.  She also dismissed using nearby public transportation to ease her symptoms.  She had logged one failed attempt at carpooling, otherwise, DiNatale had not asked anyone else to drive her to work.

Second, DiNatale admitted her work environment was not responsible for her malaise, merely that her commute aggravated her symptoms.  She further conceded that she didn’t know whether riding as a passenger in a car, using public transportation, or even working from home would alleviate her symptoms.

All factors pointed to DiNatale’s sickness occurring outside her job, and therefore, outside her employer’s responsibility.  Legally, the commute between work and home is not considered “on the job” time.  The law only requires employers to reasonably accommodate disabilities by eliminating barrier that occur inside the work environment.

If you are an individual or business involved in an employment law dispute or a discrimination case, let the attorneys at Hornberger and Brewer work for you.  Our employment lawyers thoroughly understand federal and California state employment law.  We’ll use our extensive business litigation experience to dynamically represent you in discrimination cases involving hiring, promotion, salary, job assignment, compensation, and wrongful termination.  Trust the employment attorneys at Hornberger and Brewer to guide you through!

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