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The inaccessible break room and the ADA

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Employment Law,Human Resources

Q. Our break/locker room is located upstairs. We have several employees (age 66 to 77) who are having trouble climbing the steep stairs due to advancing age. We’re afraid they’ll fall. They all say they’d crawl up the stairs before they quit. — Anonymous

A. In general, a fall at work will be covered by your state’s workers’ compensation laws. But you may need to address several other issues. First, OSHA regulations require you to provide a safe workplace, and steep stairs without adequate rails or stair treads may be unsafe.

Second, these employees may have impairments that could be regarded as ADA-qualifying disabilities and, thus, they’d be due reasonable accommodations. The ADA requires you to make your facilities accessible to disabled employees.

Third, you should be wary of the employees’ “we’ll crawl up the stairs before we quit” statement. That shows they may be thinking about age discrimination and might perceive your break room’s inaccessibility as part of an effort to get them to quit.

One practical answer to all these problems: Move the break room and locker area to a more accessible location. 

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