Service animal or pet? When Rover comes to work

May 14, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Erica E. Flores

For decades, service animals were used almost exclusively to assist the blind and, in that role, were aptly known simply as guide dogs or seeing-eye dogs. But times have changed. Today, dogs and other service animals—including monkeys, parrots, and miniature horses—are being trained to provide a remarkable variety of services to individuals with disabilities. They can alert the hearing impaired to household and environmental sounds, warn epileptics of oncoming seizures, calm children and adults with autism, signal diabetics of changes in their insulin levels, and, increasingly, provide comfort and companionship to people with a wide range of mental and emotional disabilities, including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and post- traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). What does that mean for employers?   Pit Bull Wearing Service Dog Vest

Emotional support animals?

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Distracted worker may be entitled to ‘disability’ accommodation

May 14, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Robert P. Tinnin, Jr.

Q One of our workers has been with the company for about three years. From the outset, he has been an outstanding performer. About four months ago, however, he went through a divorce, which appears to have had a major impact on him, and he seems distracted. Both the quantity and the quality of his work have suffered demonstrably. I have given him two written warnings that he must improve both the quantity and quality of his work or face discharge. The last warning was about a month ago, and I have seen no improvement. Can I terminate him now for poor performance?  Group of multi-tasking creative people working in the office.

A Before doing so, make every effort to determine whether he might be “disabled” within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and explore accommodations for his condition.

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Questions and answers on accommodating employees with mental disabilities

April 16, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Jonathan R. Mook

The following article answers some common questions about the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) recently promulgated guidance on the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and mental health conditions.

Q Why should employers review the EEOC’s mental health guidance?  Head with gears

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Even under ADAAA, being ‘ill-tempered’ is not a disability

April 16, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Rozlyn Fulgoni-Britton

Ever since the ADA Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA) became law and substantially expanded the definition of “disability,” employers have been warned not to focus on whether an employee has a disability when evaluating reasonable accommodations. While that warning is valid, it is not absolute, and employers should not completely skip evaluating whether an employee has a disability. Even the 9th Circuit, where employees typically fare relatively well, has found that “cantankerous” and “ill-tempered” employees who are disciplined for treating coworkers and subordinates inappropriately do not have a disability that substantially limits the major life activity of interacting with others.  Angry boss

Facts

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Dealing with the unseen: Tips for traversing legal terrain of hidden disabilities

March 19, 2017 0 COMMENTS

Work can be stressful for anyone, and employers are wise to ease the burdens when possible in the interest of maintaining productivity and the general well-being of the workforce. But disabilities can complicate the issue, especially when the disability isn’t obvious.  man with stressed face expression brain melting into lines

Human resources professionals may be well aware that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as the ADA Amendments Act that broadened the law’s protections in many cases, require employers to provide qualified employees who have a disability an opportunity to be productive at work by engaging in the “interactive process” and providing “reasonable accommodations.”

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ADA interactive process: When does your obligation to engage begin?

January 15, 2017 0 COMMENTS

by Susan Hartmus Hiser

Q We have an employee whose work performance has been slipping lately. We have reason to believe that she is suffering from depression because she was diagnosed as bipolar and had a bout of depression a few years ago that led to a similar decline in her work performance. We allowed her to work a modified schedule for a brief period while she was being treated by her therapist. She hasn’t requested another accommodation recently. Can we discipline her, up to and including termination, based on her performance, or do we need to take steps to address her depression under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)?   depressed businessman at office working on computer asking for help

A Both the ADA and many state laws place the initial burden on the employee to inform her employer of a need for an accommodation. However, in the situation you describe, given the employee’s history of depression and her attendant performance issues, a court could find that your company was on notice of her need for an accommodation, even though she didn’t request one. That’s particularly true since she required an accommodation to address her performance issues the last time she had a bout with depression. When an employer has knowledge of an employee’s disability, she need not use the word “accommodation” to trigger the ADA obligation of engaging in the interactive process.

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Are coworkers out to get paranoid employee?

November 20, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by J. Steven Massoni

Mental impairments are some of the most challenging disabilities to accommodate. Read on to learn about how one company managed a difficult situation with an employee who suffers from a mental health disorder and how your company should respond in similar circumstances.  Agoraohobia

Imagine this

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Identifying accommodations for employee who can’t use the stairs

October 16, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Michael J. Spooner

Q What is considered a reasonable accommodation for an employee who can’t take the stairs during emergencies or because of maintenance issues with the elevator?  Inspecting an Evacuation Plan

A While the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t provide guidance regarding reasonable accommodations for an employee who is unable to use the stairs during an emergency, there are several pieces of information that can help you determine which accommodations are reasonable. Reasonable accommodations must be just that—reasonable. That means they take into account the specific building or workplace in which they will be implemented. Costs, building dimensions, and feasibility of implementation all must be taken into account when determining whether a particular accommodation is reasonable.

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New EEOC guidance should remind employers to guard against retaliation

September 18, 2016 0 COMMENTS

No employer trying to build diversity in its workforce is likely to get very far if its culture tolerates discrimination, harassment, and retaliation against employees based on race, gender, age, disability, or any other characteristic protected by law. Not only does such a culture work against recruitment and retention of diverse talent, it also invites legal trouble. That’s why employers are taking a close look at new guidance from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) addressing retaliation claims.  Dangerous handshake

The EEOC issued its new guidance on August 29, replacing previous guidance released in 1998. In addition to the guidance document, the EEOC also released a question-and-answer document and a fact sheet for small business. The material from the EEOC follows a surge of retaliation claims in recent years.

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Employees’ food allergies are nothing to sneeze at!

September 18, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Stefanie M. Renaud

Navigating the ins and outs of your obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and similar state laws can be a challenge for even the most seasoned HR professional. One situation that may be familiar to you is having an employee with food allergies. According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, about 15 million people in the United States suffer from food allergies, and that number is steadily increasing. Allergies are not only miserable for the sufferer, but they can also hurt an employer’s bottom line: It’s estimated that employees miss about four million workdays per year as a result of allergies. Allergy food

Depending on their severity, food allergies may be covered by the ADA or similar state laws. To avoid employee complaints, lost productivity, excessive absences, and the risk of a lawsuit, it’s important to have a plan in place to address requests for accommodations based on food allergies.

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