Company Denies Request For #Reasonable #Accommodation
By now, every employer should know that the #ADA requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation of an employee's #disability, unless the employer would suffer an undue hardship as a result. An employer's duty to provide an accommodation is an ongoing responsibility, meaning that providing one at a particular time in the employment process doesn’t absolve the employer of liability for failing to provide another accommodation, if needed, in response to a subsequent request.
However, according to a recent #EEOC lawsuit, #Midcontinent #Independent #Transmission #System #Operator (#MISO), a power grid operator for much of the Midwest, denied an employee’s leave request (leave which was available under the company's policies) and then fired her for lack of attendance.
The employee was experiencing #postpartum #depression, a condition the employee made known to the company. Although postpartum depression is not a permanent condition, it had substantially limited more than one of the employee's major life activities for several months when MISO fired her, the touchstones of disability under the ADA.
After being fired, the employee filed a discrimination charge with the EEOC.
While insisting that having an employee in her position was critical, MISO nevertheless waited more than a month after her anticipated return-to-work date to fill the position, and then allowed the new employee to delay her own start date by another three months.
The settlement agreement requires that MISO:
• pay $90,500 in monetary to resolve the lawsuit,
• provide training to its employees on its obligations under the ADA;
• post an employee notice about the lawsuit informing employees of MISO's duty under the law to maintain a workplace free from unlawful discrimination;
• provide annual reports to the EEOC including details of how all other requests for accommodation are handled by MISO; and
• allow the EEOC to monitor compliance with the decree.
The EEOC also obtained an injunction against MISO prohibiting unlawful disability discrimination and retaliation.
Two important takeaways from this lawsuit include:
1. EEOC’s determination that the effects of an impairment expected to last less than six months can still be substantially limiting under the ADA.
2. An employer’s claim that a position is “critical” must be substantiated by objective evidence.
One of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC's #Strategic #Enforcement #Plan (#SEP) is for the agency to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA and pregnancy-related limitations, among other possible issues.
As an increasing number of people with disabilities are included in the workforce, as a result of new hires or existing employees acquiring disabilities, it’s important that companies implement or update existing training programs about disability issues in order to mitigate risk over the long term.
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.