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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EEOC Guidance When Employees or Job Applicants Have Cancer

cancer-389921_1280Basic human compassion and general understanding of the treatment situation of employees with cancer with guide you most of the way to dealing with the situation appropriately.  Yet the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) wants to be sure employers treat cancer patients in a manner consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Of course, cancer patients are not a uniform block.  For some, treatment soon after a diagnosis will render them unable to work as productively as they normally would — or at all — for a period of time.  Others will just keep chugging along as if nothing happened.

One of the biggest impediments cancer patients face is prejudice and mythology from people, including employers.  For that reason, the EEOC has laid out guidance for employers when dealing with job applicants, as well as employees.

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What’s Reasonable for Disability Accommodation?

wheelchair-749985_1280Employers must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar state laws sometimes wonder how far they have to go to accommodate a disabled applicant or employee.

The ADA defines accommodation as any change in the work or work environment which enables a disabled employee to perform the essential functions of a job.  Accommodations can range from improving physical or structural obstacles to easing rigid work schedules.

The federal law (and similar state laws protecting qualified disabled applicants and employees) requires private employers with 15 or more employees to make reasonable accommodations for the qualified disabled applicants and employees. (Similar state laws often apply the same or similar requirements to all, or nearly all, employers.)

The key questions for employers often are: What makes an accommodation reasonable? And what kinds of accommodations are reasonable?

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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

ADA: Tips When Hiring Disabled

notepad-411030_1280Normally, a candidate of Pat’s caliber would win the activities director opening at the nursing home, hands down.  But Pat is deaf.  Yes, she can read lips.  But will her hearing disability limit her capacity to understand residents who have speech impediments?

To help answer a question like this, here’s a primer on how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) impacts hiring decisions.

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Working Virtually: The New Frontier in ADA Accommodation?

startup-593322_1280Sometime this year, a U.S. District Court in Detroit will dive back into the weeds to decide whether a particular job at Ford Motor Corporation could be done adequately by an employee working four days a week from home.  That’s the task it was given by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which covers Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.  This court overruled a trial court’s initial rejection of a discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  The EEOC is the federal agency charged with enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act.  What constitutes a reasonable accommodation without placing an undue burden on the employer?  The answer is constantly evolving as the EEOC explores new theories and fact patterns.  (EEOC v. Ford, No. 12-2484).

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