Dilemma: How Long to Hold a Job Open

Occasionally, employees want or need to be away from work after they question-685060_1280have used up all their accrued vacation, paid sick leave, and paid personal time off. For example, an employee may be out collecting Workers’ Compensation benefits for months, even a year or more. So, you need to let employees know the circumstances under which they may take unpaid leaves, how long you may hold a job open, and when employment terminates. Here’s an example of a dilemma an employer might face.

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How Some Employment Actions Illegally Discriminate

You hired a disabled veteran. You’re giving extra time-off to an employee who needs chemotherapy.file6831274905127 You feel you’re doing everything you can to make “reasonable accommodations” for your employees protected under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar state laws.

You may need to examine more than your hiring practices and benefits. Look at your everyday actions and the everyday actions of your managers and supervisors. Discrimination against the disabled can be subtle and unintentional. Continue reading

Must Employers Accommodate Disabilities?

handicapQuestion from an employer: We have an employee who is receiving treatment for an injured rotator cuff. She has seen an orthopedic specialist and has had physical therapy. On her second visit to the orthopedic specialist, he determined that her therapy helped. The employee didn’t need surgery but did require more time to heal the tear. Her work duties required limited lifting.

This employee works in a very physically demanding department and we have been able to keep her in the department by having her assume the lightest job duty. Prior to her injury, all employees in the department rotated so they were able to experience the lightest and heaviest jobs throughout each day. The injured employee’s situation has put a strain on the others pulling her slack. We have not transferred her to a totally different department because she would have to take a cut in pay and we thought there would be consequences to us for doing that.

Can we require her to move to another department to accommodate her need for light duties even though she would receive a cut in pay?

Answer: This is one of those employer situations where there is no simple, black and white response.

Start with the employer’s obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A private employer with 15 or more employees must reasonably accommodate disabled applicants and employees who are covered by the ADA. Your state law may require similar obligations on employers in your state.

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Employers: Understand When Disability Discrimination Occurs

In multiple cases this year, the Equal Employment Opportunity commission (EEOC) has taken action against employers for alleged discrimination in cases involving disabled individuals. hands-460872_1280

Although the total number of cases filed against employers in 2014 was down slightly from the year before, charges are up significantly from a decade earlier.  The EEOC has not given a reason for the long-term increase.  However, many HR professionals and employment law attorneys attribute it to the aging population and an expanded disability definition that took effect in January 2009.

Under federal law, disability discrimination can occur when:

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Dealing with Employee Mental Disabilities Under the ADA

face-535761_1280When interviewing applicants and making employment decisions, keep in mind that mentally disabled employees are protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Many individuals with psychiatric disorders face employment discrimination because their disabilities are stigmatized or misunderstood.  According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal government has received a large number of complaints about discrimination due to these disabilities.  As an employer, you must be aware of what comprises a mental disorder and how to legally deal with an employee who is mentally disabled.

Determining a psychiatric disability is a complicated matter.  The ADA requires employers to provide “reasonable accommodation” for employees who suffer from mental impairments, which the law describes as “any mental or psychological disorder, such as… emotional or mental illness.”

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Must Employers Accommodate Disabilities?

man-67327_1280Question from an employer: We have an employee who is receiving treatment for an injured rotator cuff.  She has seen an orthopedic specialist and has had physical therapy.  On her second visit to the orthopedic specialist, he determined that her therapy helped.  The employee didn’t need surgery but did require more time to heal the tear.  Her work duties required limited lifting.

This employee works in a very physically demanding department and we have been able to keep her in the department by having her assume the lightest job duty.  Prior to her injury, all employees in the department rotated so they were able to experience the lightest and heaviest jobs throughout each day.  The injured employee’s situation has put a strain on the others pulling her slack.  We have not transferred her to a totally different department because she would have to take a cut in pay and we thought there would be consequences to us for doing that.

Can we require her to move to another department to accommodate her need for light duties even though she would receive a cut in pay?

Continue reading