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Employee may be gone, but e-mails requesting ADA accommodations must live on

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in Discrimination and Harassment,HR Management,Human Resources

Here’s a record-keeping requirement you may not be aware of: Employers must keep any written requests for ADA accommodations for at least one year. That includes requests received via e-mail.

If you routinely purge information from computer hard drives or servers when employees quit, are fired or retire, you may be in violation of the requirement. And then the fact that you “destroyed” the information may be used against you in court.

Recent case: Mary Kay Scalera has muscular dystrophy and went to work for Electrograph Systems. She claims that over the next few months, she regularly used her company e-mail system to request accommodations, including asking HR to install a grab bar and higher toilet seat in the restroom to make it more accessible. Then she fell, allegedly because there was no grab bar.

After she left Electrograph Systems, she sued, alleging that her accommodation request had been ignored.

It turned out that the company had reformatted her hard drive as soon as she stopped working for the company. When the HR staffer who handled Scalera’s accommodations retired, her computer was reformatted, too.

The court came down hard on Electrograph Systems, saying the EEOC regulations are clear: Written accommodation requests must be kept for at least a year. By automatically reformatting the drives, the company destroyed the requests and violated the law. (Scalera v. Electrograph Systems, No. 08-50, ED NY, 2009)

Advice: Share this article with your IT staff.

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