By Eric B. Meyer
When the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act went into effect in 2009, it significantly lowered the bar for proving a “disability.”
How low did it go?
You’ll see how low when your employee — like you and I — suffers from “episodic” (that’s fancy legal speak for “rare”) bouts of back pain. The pain is bearable and the “episodic” flare ups only last a week and come just a few times each year.
Finding a reasonable accommodation
But right about the time you fire the employee for violating your drug free workplace policy, the back pain suddenly becomes unbearable. Then, after getting fired, your former employee will immediately seek medical treatment from an orthopedic doctor named Dr. Kwak. And, like magic, the pain will subside with each passing day.
I wish I were making this up, but those are the facts of Eastman v. Research Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a copy which you’ll find here. Based on these facts, a Pennsylvania federal court found that the plaintiff’s disability discrimination claims were strong enough to withstand a defense motion for summary judgment:
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Cases like this reaffirm what lawyers like me have been telling employers like you for some time now: If an employee complains to you about some ailment and how it affects the employee’s ability to do the job, unless it’s a common cold, discuss reasonable accommodations with that employee.
And, certainly, don’t take action against that employee because of the employee’s [insert “disability” here], unless there is no reasonable accommodation that will permit the employee to perform the essential functions of the job.
This was originally published on Eric B. Meyer’s blog, The Employer Handbook.