AutoZone, Inc. an auto-parts retailer, Is once again, accused of illegally firing an employee because of her disability, according to the EEOC, when the company fired a manager at one of its stores. EEOC says the woman had just received a doctor's clearance to return to work with a lifting restriction, following an injury to her shoulder two years earlier. The EEOC says AutoZone failed to provide reasonable accommodation to her injury and fired her. The lawsuit seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages.
According to an EEOC guidance letter, “Whether an individual’s back impairment constitutes a disability depends upon the facts of the case. For example, and individual whose back impairment prevents him/her from lifting more than 15 lbs is substantially limited in the major life activity of lifting because the average person in the general population can lift 15 lbs with little or no difficulty. On the other hand, an individual whose back impairment prevents him/her from lifting more than 50 lbs is not substantially limited in the major life activity of lifting because the average person in the general population cannot lift 50 lbs with little or no difficulty. Furthermore, an individual whose back impairment does not substantially limit a major life activity may still be covered if an employer perceives him/her as being as substantially limited in a major life activity (for example, lifting or working).
If your employee has a lifting restriction, employers should talk with the employee to find out if there’s a workplace support might be available that would let the individual continue working without causing further injury. The following questions should be considered when determining if a workplace support exists:
1. What limitations is the employee with a back impairment experiencing?
2. How do these limitations affect the employee’s job performance?
3. What specific job tasks are problematic as a result of these limitations?
4. What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate these problems? Are all possible resources being used to determine accommodations?
5. Has the employee with a back impairment been consulted regarding possible accommodations?
6. Once accommodations are in place, would it be useful to meet with the employee with a back impairment to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and to determine whether additional accommodations are needed?
If you're not sure what type of training would your supervisors and managers need, contact Springboard to discuss a program tailored to help reduce your company's risk when faced with employees who have lifting restrictions.
This information should not be construed as “legal advice” for a particular set of facts or circumstances. It is intended only to be a practical guide for participants familiar with this subject. Users should seek appropriate legal advice tailored to address their specific situation.