Accommodations for Commuting to Work and Driving Jobs

Published October 16, 2020

If a work schedule or work location becomes a barrier to an employee with a disability, their employer may be required to provide reasonable accommodation to overcome the barrier to their job.

Taking public transportation to work

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act, an employer is not mandated to provide transportation to and from work for their employers with disabilities unless they provide transportation as a benefit to all employees. However, if an employee can have flexibility when getting to work in the morning without causing disruption to the workplace, an employer may have to provide such flexibility as a reasonable workplace accommodation.

The Job Accommodation Network (JAN) created an Accommodation and Compliance Series of documents that address transportation and the various scenarios an employer may come across when assisting employees with accommodations. One hypothetical example is an employee with anxiety or a driving phobia. The person took public transportation to work but the commute was exceptionally long. She disclosed her disability and requested accommodations so the employer moved her to a new work location that reduced the length of the commute.

If an employee is unable to drive due to a disability, the Center for Independent Living is a great resource to learn about different transportation opportunities in the employee’s community. The Federal Transit Administration also has a lot of information about mobility and transportation needs.

When driving is part of the work environment

If driving is an essential part of an employee’s job the employer needs to try to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities who are unable to drive. More information about how to determine whether driving is an essential function is described in this Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Informal Guidance Letter. Options might include finding alternative transportation or assigning the person to a substitute task, such as administrative duties, instead of a job that requires driving.

In the case of positions in which driving is essential, such as trucking, the employer makes the determination of whether the person can safely operate the vehicle. If that company deems that the disability "may hinder safe driving", it has the right not to hire the prospective employee, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The employer needs to make a reasonable effort at accommodation. That may include limiting hours or driving distance for employees with disabilities that inhibit their ability to sit for long periods. Or it may be possible to modify the vehicle to fit the employee’s needs. The National Highway Transportation Safety Commission is a good resource for information about adaptive vehicles. Employers who have additional questions can reach out to the Job Accommodation Network.