Workers Fired for Not Getting Well Fast Enough; Company on the Hook for $8.6 Million
What workers need to know about leave and the Americans with Disabilities Act
Imagine this scenario: A woman needs several months off from work to seek cancer treatment. However, the employer’s policy only allows leave for a maximum of 180 days.
The employee is unable to return to work within that period. She’s fired.
The question is, was the termination legal?
A major U.S. retailer has just come under fire for its policy of allowing only limited leave for disabled workers. While the case settled before it went to trial, it highlights some important issues related to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Did policy discriminate?
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently sued hardware retailer Lowe’s for disability discrimination. The agency sued the company on behalf of a group of workers who claimed that they were terminated because they were disabled, or because the company regarded them as disabled.
The employees alleged that the company failed to offer them reasonable accommodation in violation of the ADA. Specifically, workers claim that the company failed to consider their requests for extended leave. Rather, it relied on a company policy that capped the maximum number of days off at 180, and then later at 240 days.
According to the EEOC, that practice violated the ADA, which states that disabled workers’ requests for accommodation must be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Rather than go to trial, Lowe’s ultimately agreed to settle the case. It must pay $8.6 million, which will be distributed among the workers represented in the lawsuit.
For more information, see the EEOC’s news release on this case.
What you need to know about the ADA
It’s important to aware that the ADA requires a case-by-case evaluation.
That is, ADA coverage is determined based on an individual’s particular condition and circumstances. By the same token, ADA accommodations must be considered based on the unique characteristics of the person’s medical issues, his or her job duties, and the employer’s business.
That means that company policies that require a blanket interpretation for all employees may not be lawful when it comes to the ADA.
In addition, the EEOC has noted that extended leave may be considered a reasonable accommodation in some cases. As we stated above, however, that determination must be made on a case-by-case basis.
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If you believe that your rights under the ADA have been compromised, it’s a good idea to speak to an attorney.Call or email us today to discuss your unique situation.