Tired employees may be entitled to go to work late

We all have those mornings when we just don’t want to get out of bed. Usually this means hitting the snooze button a few times before rushing to get to work on time.

But what if a disability makes someone so tired in the morning that they can’t get to work on time? According to a recent ruling by the federal appeals court in New York, the employer might just have to wait.

In that case, a New York City social worker suffered from schizophrenia and took a prescription medication that left him “sluggish” in the morning.

His agency had a generous flex-time policy that allowed workers to arrive between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m., and didn’t actually consider them late unless they arrived after 10:15.

Still, the social worker said the side effects of his medication often made it impossible to get to work before 11:00. He asked for an 11:00 start time as an accommodation.

The city refused. Ultimately, it suspended him for tardiness. The worker sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act, arguing that the city had to reasonably accommodate his disability.

The court allowed the case to proceed. It said that normally, arriving at work on time is an essential function of a job, and an employer has a right to demand it. However, being on time isn’t always an essential job function.

In this case, a jury might find that the worker could start his day at 11:00 a.m. and still complete his work in a timely enough fashion – which would mean that the city had to accept this accommodation.