As most employers (hopefully) know, the Americans with Disabilities Act sets forth strict guidelines for when employers can require employees or applicants to undergo medical examinations or when they can ask questions that might reveal a disability. And the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act restricts what employers can ask about the applicant/employee’s family medical conditions. Getting this wrong can cost the employer, as a recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (the federal agency that enforces the ADA and other federal anti-discrimination laws) press release made clear. The EEOC gleefully announced that Dollar General agreed to settle an ADA and GINA lawsuit for $1,000,000 (!!!), based in part on illegal post-offer/pre-employment questions that were asked of applicants.Continue Reading An Applicant’s Family Medical History? Apparently, That’s the Million Dollar Question!
So many EEOC lawsuits – so many lessons… Some recent announcements from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (which is the federal agency that enforces federal anti-discrimination laws) provide some lessons for employers on possible reasonable accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act – specifically, when such accommodations already exist for the employee in question or their co-workers.Continue Reading Don’t Deny a Reasonable Accommodation that Exists – Really!
Being “on the spectrum” is a pretty common way of referring to individuals with autism (although my husband, a doctor, had never heard of that. Where has he been? Granted, he’s a pathologist, so doesn’t deal directly with live patients, but nonetheless…). Of course, there are varying degrees of severity of symptoms, and some people with social communication or interaction challenges do not actually have autism spectrum disorder. But these symptoms can pose challenges for those individuals in the workplace – and for their employers as well.
Continue Reading Employers, Are You Regarding Those Socially Awkward Employees as Disabled?
Have you read the warnings on prescription painkillers? They can be pretty scary – “May cause drowsiness.” “May cause dizziness.” “Do not operate a car or dangerous machinery.” (Or words to that effect). I think by now, everyone is aware of the risks associated with controlled substances. Certainly, the opioid epidemic did not earn its name lightly. So it’s not surprising that some employers are concerned when employees take prescription medications that come with those warnings – particularly when those employees are working with heavy machinery or sharp objects, or getting behind the wheel of a vehicle. But it is important for employers to understand when they can – and cannot – prohibit employees on such medications from working.
Continue Reading Employers – Don’t Automatically Assume Prescription Meds Pose a Danger in the Workplace
When considering a request for reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, many employers focus on what will enable an employee to perform the essential functions of their job. But the reasonable accommodation obligation is actually broader than that. As set forth in the EEOC’s regulations, employers must also provide reasonable accommodations that enable an employee with a disability “to enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment as are enjoyed by its other similarly situated employees without disabilities.” And this encompasses certain activity outside the workplace – such as parking.
Continue Reading Reasonable Accommodations Don’t Just Start at the Office Door…
In the latest entry in our series on extraordinary workplace misconduct, we must come to terms with the fact that not everyone loves birthdays or surprises. And, when an employee tells you that they don’t want a surprise birthday party, you’d best oblige them or you could face a discrimination suit and a nearly half a million-dollar jury verdict!
As the Washington Post, New York Times, and our Twitter scrolling reported, a Kentucky-based medical laboratory, Gravity Diagnostics, was found liable by a jury for disability discrimination when it fired an employee who suffered from an anxiety disorder that caused panic attacks. As a result, the jury awarded $450,000 in damages for lost wages and emotional distress. However, it’s the series of events that prompted the employer’s actions that are truly extraordinary.Continue Reading Extraordinary Workplace Misconduct: Celebrating you is a piece of cake…
Some readers may know that I have an adorable dog. A lifelong dog-hater, we got the dog as a bribe for my son (long story), and now I love the darned thing. There are days that he is the only one in the family that I love. And it’s been great, in this year+ of WFH, to have him nearby at all times. Many people agree – and some would like to take their fur babies to the office when they return. But, as one court recently explained, that’s only required if the dog is, in fact, a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act – and there must be medical support for such an accommodation.
Continue Reading Love Me, Love My Dog? Maybe Not at Work…
By now we probably all have seen the YouTube Video of poor Danny, who finished his Zoom video meeting with his colleagues and forgot to end the call as he walked away from the screen, his colorful boxer short underwear in plain sight (along with his backscratching stretch to loosen his muscles). Or the son of the late Steve Reeve of Superman fame (Will), a reporter who was spied at the end of a news piece he broadcasted from home without any suit pants! Ah, Danny and Will! But, other things are happening while employees work from home that raise concerns. For example, the employee who during a conference call is slurring his speech as if intoxicated.
Continue Reading DWZ – Drinking While Zooming (And Other Telework Dilemmas)
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.”