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Disability Discrimination in the Workplace Leads to Termination, Hostile Work Environment

In previous articles, various forms of employment discrimination that are covered under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 have been discussed. One that has not been covered is disability discrimination. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) was also enacted to protect employees and potential employees from discrimination based on a physical or mental disability. Employers with more than 15 employees are required to give potential employees with disabilities the same opportunity to obtain a position as those without a disability. Once employed with a company, disabled employees should enjoy the same benefits, such as equal pay, opportunities for advancement, and job selection. They should feel welcome at work and have certain accommodations made to enable them to do the job if necessary.

These laws do not mean that a disabled individual has to be considered for every type of position. If a disability would put the employee, co-workers or the general public in harm’s way, he or she is not entitled to the same consideration. The individual must also have the qualifications, experience and skills necessary for the job.

In a Kentucky disability discrimination case last year, an employee at a Waffle House in Mount Vernon was wrongfully terminated after she informed her employer she had Hepatitis C. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against the owner of the Waffle House and reached a settlement out of court. The settlement included back pay for the terminated employee and required the employer to provide anti-discrimination training and to refrain from future discrimination or retaliation.

More recent cases involve individuals who were discriminated against because of their diabetes. In August of this year, the EEOC filed a lawsuit on behalf of Pamela Manning, an employee of Kohl’s , who had diabetes. Ms. Manning’s set work schedule suddenly changed to an irregular one. She began suffering from complications from her diabetes because of the irregular schedule and asked to be returned to a set schedule. Kohl’s refused, even after seeing a note from Ms. Manning’s doctor. Because of her health, she was forced to quit. According to the EEOC press release, the suit “seeks monetary relief for Manning, the adoption of strong policies and procedures to remedy and prevent disability discrimination by Kohl’s, training on discrimination for its managers and employees, and more.” An 18-year employee of Walgreens who had diabetes was fired in California because she ate a bag of chips when she felt her sugar levels dropping. She paid for the chips as soon as she was able, but was still terminated. According to the ADA, employers are required to make reasonable accommodations for those with disabilities, and allowing an employee to eat a bag chips to avoid a medical emergency would seem like a “reasonable accommodation.”

While employers may complain that making special arrangements for an employee with disabilities is costly, studies show it really is not. The President’s Committee’s Job Accommodation Network report shows that most individuals with disabilities do not even require special accommodations. Accommodations for a little over 50 percent of disabled employees that require them cost under $500. Disabled workers do not require higher worker’s compensation rates and do not use any more sick time than someone without disabilities. If you have a disability and are looking for employment, know your rights before attending the interview. If you are currently employed and think you have been terminated or denied benefits or promotion because of a disability, contact the Kentucky disability discrimination lawyers at Miller & Falkner. They can review your case and determine the best course of action.

Sources:

EEOC Sues Kohl’s Department Stores For Disability Discrimination; EEOC; August 23, 2011
Kentucky Waffle House Agrees To Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit
; EEOC; September 23, 2010
Would You Fire Someone Over a $1.39-Bag of Chips?; Inc.com; Courtney Rubin; September 12, 2011