A power grid operator in the Midwest recently learned that it isn't. An employee had made it known to her employer, Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO), that she was suffering from postpartum depression and required time off for her condition. The company refused, then fired her for poor attendance. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) first tried to reach a settlement with MISO, but when that failed, the EEOC filed a discrimination lawsuit against MICO claiming violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The court ordered MISO to:
Pay the former employee $90,500
Provide training to its employees about ADA requirements
Post notices to inform employees of MISO's duty not to unlawfully discriminate
Provide details to the EEOC of how all other accommodation requests are handled
Desist from unlawful disability discrimination and retaliation
The ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for the benefit of disabled workers. Although postpartum depression isn't the type of permanent disability usually covered by the ADA, in this case the employee's impairment was found to be substantially limiting and thus covered by the ADA.
In addition, New York City workers have a new law, the NYC Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which requires employers with more than three workers to make reasonable accommodations for workers with postpartum depression and other childbirth medical conditions as well as for pregnant workers. (See earlier blog post)