Reasonable Accommodation

In my occasional series of blog posts involving I-can’t-believe-they-said-that employee excuses, here’s one that made my jaw drop.

Many of you are familiar with the Wal-Mart greeter – that friendly person at the store entrance who used to welcome shoppers with a hello and perhaps an offer of assistance. (And I say “used to” because apparently the position has been replaced by a  “customer host” position that provides more customer service and theft prevention functions throughout the store). This position, which was created by founder Sam Walton, was a large part of the company culture.  It seems obvious that the essential function of a greeter is, well, to greet customers. Which would necessarily require the greeter to actually be present in order to do so, right?


Continue Reading Extraordinary Employee Excuses: Attendance Is Not An Essential Job Function of a Greeter?

On August 5, 2020, the EEOC released technical assistance documents for employees and health care providers on opioid addiction and employment. The documents provide questions and answers about how the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees who use legal opioid medications or have past addiction to opioids. Of particular significance, the EEOC asserts that employees currently in treatment for opioid addiction are protected by the ADA – thereby officially endorsing a position that they have previously asserted on a less formal basis.

Continue Reading EEOC Says Employees in Opioid Treatment Are Protected by the ADA

Various federal agencies have recently issued additional COVID-19 guidance of significance (more or less) to employers, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the Department of Labor (DOL), and the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). Some of this guidance applies to workplaces and employers generally, while others target specific industries, such as bars and restaurants, manufacturing, child care, schools, and mass transit. We summarize these developments below.

Continue Reading COVID-19 Agency Update: CDC and OSHA Issue Reopening Guidance, EEOC Explains Accommodation of High-Risk Workers, IRS Expands Employee Retention Credit, DOL Adds to FFCRA Q&As, FEMA Provides Exercise Starter Kit for Reopening

As businesses slowly begin to reopen, workers are being recalled to the workplace. Some of them are expressing reluctance to return due to increased health risks from COVID-19 based on underlying medical conditions or age. Others are struggling with child care issues as schools remain closed for the remainder of the academic year and summer care programs are canceled. Some employers have asked what are their obligations to such workers under the law? Can they terminate them, or do they have to accommodate them?

Continue Reading Recalled Workers Don’t Want to Return Because of Health Risks or Child Care – Now What?

As I discussed in a blog post last year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has been bringing cases on behalf of applicants/employees who use lawfully prescribed opioids (including methadone) against employers who fail to conduct an individualized assessment of the applicant/employee to determine whether those drugs made them unqualified for the position. In EEOC v. Steel Painters LLC, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas held that a reasonable jury could find that the employer did just that.

Continue Reading Methadone User Can Sue Under ADA

And with that obvious (and rather snarky) statement, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit made the obvious point that an employee who was asleep or unconscious on the job was unable to perform the essential functions of his job and therefore not qualified for the position under the Americans with Disabilities Act! Now, as my regular readers know, I enjoy a good snark and my blog posts about various court decisions often contain snide comments. But in this case, the (usually quite proper) Fifth Circuit took care of that all on its own…

Continue Reading “[M]aintaining consciousness is a basic element of any job.”

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an employee unable to perform the essential functions of his/her job must be in want of a transfer. And it is also quite clear under the Americans with Disabilities Act that the employer must consider a transfer or reassignment to a vacant position as a reasonable accommodation. What is less clear is whether the employee automatically gets the position (i.e. an arranged marriage) or whether the employer can require the employee to compete for the position (see, e.g. “The Bachelor”).

Continue Reading A Marriage of Convenience? EEOC Continues To Push Non-Competitive Transfer as Reasonable Accommodation

My interest is piqued by laws with unusual twists, like the Emeryville, California ordinance that permits the use of sick leave to care for a family member’s service animal (about which I blogged previously). Here’s another one – Pittsburgh recently passed a pregnancy accommodations ordinance that extends protections to the partners of pregnant employees!

Continue Reading Pregnancy Protections for Partners?

In its latest edition of the Digest of EEO Law, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission included an article entitled, “Religious Accommodation in the Workplace: An Overview of the Law and Recent Commission Decisions.” Although the article summarizes federal sector decisions, it provides guidance to private employers on the EEOC’s overall position on religious accommodations – and (just in time for Halloween) the conclusions are a little scary!

Continue Reading What Does the EEOC Think About Religious Accommodations? It’s Spooky!

According to Pharmajet Blog, a surprising number of pharmacists suffer from trypanophobia – the fear of giving injections, which most in their profession have to do these days during flu season. As Pharmajet notes, the Americans with Disabilities Act generally does not help the needle-phobic pharmacist because companies have a right to define the essential functions of a job.


Continue Reading Pharmacist Afraid of Needles? Be a Stickler About Essential Job Functions!!