Alisha Regan worked for Faurecia Automotive Seating, an automotive manufacturing facility in Michigan. When hired, Regan's work hours were from 6 am to 3 pm. When her husband later took a new job, they moved some 79 miles from Ms. Regan's job, resulting in her commute to work lasting between two and four hours.
Regan has narcolepsy but continued to work without incident until Faurecia determined that her group's 6 to 3 shift was inefficient because materials the group needed did not get to them until later in the morning. When Faurcia change the hours from 7 to 4, Ms. Regan asked to be allowed to leave work at 3 pm (by skipping lunch or starting work earlier) as an accommodation because driving home from work at the later time would put her in heavier traffic. She explained that heavy traffic tired her out more quickly and cause her to become tired. Her commute would take longer because she would have to pull over and rest more often. Faurecia offered FMLA leave but refused to let her end work at 3.
As a threshold matter, the court of appeals addressed whether Ms. Regan's requested accommodation was reasonable because it sought to accommodate difficulties she encountered outside of the work environment. Relying upon decisions from other courts, the court of appeals held that "the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require Faurecia to accommodate Regan’s request for a commute during more convenient hours. Under the facts present here, her proposal of a modified work schedule for purposes of commuting during hours with allegedly lighter traffic is not a reasonable accommodation."
Tennessee employers should not read more into this decision than it says. The EEOC agrees that an employer is not required to "provide assistance in getting [an] employee to and from work." But the EEOC's position is also that an employer must allow an employee to work a "modified work schedule" (e.g. different start or ending times) as an accommodation for a disability.
Frankly, it is not easy to reconcile the Sixth Circuit's decision with the EEOC's position. The Sixth Circuit apparently concluded that difficulties caused by the heavier commute were too attenuated from a symptom of her disability (which an employer must accommodate). I suspect the EEOC might not agree, saying that Regan's disability was a major reason Regan felt she needed to leave early.