EEOC filed another discrimination lawsuit against a cement plant for failing to provide reasonable accommodation to one of its employees who worked as a cement driver and had a neck impairment.
The employee, who had safely performed his job duties for two and a half years, requested to be exempt from cleaning the inside of the concrete barrel of his truck once a year, or in the alternative, to use the jackhammer, which was used to remove the excess concrete, in a downward motion, as opposed to the typical upward, overhead motion.
Is this a request for “reasonable accommodation?” You bet it is.
What happened next? When he requested that reasonable accommodation he was immediately sent home on unpaid leave and eventually fired.
This decision is unfortunate. Whomever made that call clearly did not attend any ADA training and put the company’ at risk. Rather than send the employee home, a process should have been triggered to engage in the “interactive process” with the employee to determine the workplace barrier and solutions to remove them. Is cleaning the inside of the concrete barrel once a year an essential job function? If so, the ADA requires employers to provide a workplace support. Is the alternative suggestion offered by the employee reasonable? If not, is there another way to do this task that doesn’t cause an undue hardship on the company? Or, is this actual task only a marginal duty? If so, then no accommodation is required and the task can be reassigned to another employee.
We don’t know the specific facts of this case, but we do know the decision to send him home on unpaid leave, as a 1st step, is discriminatory. This ill-advised decision cost the company $80,000 in monetary relief. The company is also required to implement policies and procedures to reduce its future risk of disability discrimination, provide training to its managers and employees, and monitor and investigate discrimination complaints.
Anyone in a position to make employment decisions must stay informed and current on new changes to laws that protect people with disabilities and make sure that employees are not harassed or discriminated against in the workplace. Not sure what decisions put your company at risk for disability discrimination? Let Springboard help you design a program that is tailored to the needs of your organization.
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.