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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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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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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EEOC aids national strategy to protect workers with HIV/AIDS

June 19, 2016 0 COMMENTS

by Natalie B. Virden

In 2010, the White House issued a National HIV/AIDS Strategy for the United States (NHAS). One step identified in the NHAS is to reduce stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has been utilizing its enforcement and litigation functions in recent years in an attempt to eradicate employment discrimination based on HIV status. In fiscal year 2014, the EEOC resolved almost 200 charges of discrimination based on HIV status and obtained more than $825,000 for job applicants and employees with HIV/AIDS who were unlawfully denied employment and reasonable accommodations. AIDS Awareness Ribbon

For example, in one recent case, the EEOC alleged that an employer withdrew a conditional employment offer after the applicant submitted a health status certification that revealed he is HIV-positive but also stated that he was cleared to work. In settling the case, the EEOC received $75,000 for the rejected applicant. In another case, the EEOC sued an employer for terminating an employee after he disclosed that he is HIV-positive. To settle the case, the employer agreed to pay the employee $125,000 and admit that his continued employment after he became HIV-positive was not a health threat.

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Passing on disabled candidates for safety reasons is risky business

December 20, 2015 0 COMMENTS

by Erica E. Flores

Election season can bring out the best and worst in our nation. The important issues that should be the focus sometimes take a backseat to headline-grabbing one-liners. But true leaders emerge at some point in nearly every campaign. It remains to be seen which of this cycle’s large group of presidential contenders will have such a moment, but we can learn a lot from leaders of the past as we wait for it.  Caution Fork-lift trucks operating sign

On March 4, 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt was inaugurated as the 32nd president of the United States. After taking the oath of office, he delivered his inaugural address. Speaking to a nation in the grip of the Great Depression, he famously told the American people that the only thing they had to fear was fear itself—”nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Eighty-two years later, Roosevelt’s words still ring true in many contexts, including the modern workplace.

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Religious accommodations: Be careful after same-sex marriage ruling

September 20, 2015 1 COMMENTS

by Brent Siler

Unless you have been hiding under a rock the past few weeks, you know that the U.S. Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in all 50 states when it issued its Obergefell decision on June 26. Much of the discussion about the ruling has revolved around its effect on people with sincere religious objections to gay marriage and balancing their right to religious freedom and expression with the newly approved constitutional protection of gay marriage.  Dictionary definition of word ideology

The tension between same-sex marriage and the right to religious expression has inspired much debate and controversy. Although you may hope otherwise, you can expect this issue to find its way into private employment settings sooner or later when employees’ sincere religious beliefs come into conflict with different beliefs or workplace policies.

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Solid job descriptions can ease ADA worries

February 15, 2015 1 COMMENTS

Good job descriptions are vital in keeping employers and employees on the same page, but they take on added importance when an employee with a disability needs help being productive. And for employers facing disability discrimination claims, job descriptions that clearly outline the essential and nonessential functions of the job can be crucial.  Job Description

Although the federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) doesn’t require employers to have written job descriptions, they are practical, according to Mary Topliff, a San Francisco attorney specializing in employment law, counseling, training, and compliance. She gave employers tips on job descriptions during a recent Business & Legal Resources webinar and emphasized the importance of carefully considering how the ADA affects job descriptions.

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Clarity amidst confusion: handling mental disability claims

September 14, 2014 0 COMMENTS

by Allison B. Wannop

One of the most difficult issues employers deal with is how to accommodate an employee with a mental impairment under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Mental impairments can include depression, anxiety disorders, and psychiatric disorders that affect employees’ attendance and performance. Employers may have a difficult time distinguishing mental impairments from other common employee behaviors. For example, an employee may frequently miss work because he suffers from depression. Balancing the needs of the business and the needs of disabled employees while staying within the ADA’s often confusing framework can be challenging.  Disability Signs

Evolving legal standard

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Reassignment as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA

October 14, 2012 0 COMMENTS

by Burton J. Fishman

Of the many contentious accommodation issues under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), perhaps the most hotly debated is whether reassignment to a vacant position is a reasonable accommodation. Although the ADA lists “reassignment” as a possible accommodation and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) supports that position, many courts have been reluctant to accept this part of an ambiguous statute at face value. The abiding issues are whether disability “trumped” all other work-related factors and whether the disabled had a superior place among protected groups.

Reassignment complications

It isn’t difficult to imagine the kinds of conflicts reassignment as an accommodation creates. What if:

  • The disabled employee is minimally qualified with few hopes of improvement?
  • There are better-qualified candidates who had bid for the open job?
  • Among the better-qualified candidates are members of other statutorily protected groups (e.g., racial minorities, women, foreign- born workers, or individuals over 40)?
  • Among the better-qualified protected employees there are other disabled employees who don’t need an accommodation to do the job? read more…