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Don’t Let Healthy Worker Play the ‘Disabled’ Card; Know Your Rights

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in Leaders & Managers,Management Training

You probably know the type: the employee who stirs the pot of discontent whenever possible. And just when you're about to levy discipline, the person pulls out the "get out of jail free" card and tells you about some imagined disability that needs accommodation.

Our advice: Don't fall for it. Those are the times you need to say "enough is enough" and stand tough. While you can't retaliate against such employees, you can use common sense and assess the situation as you would for any other disability.

Most importantly, obtain medical documentation. Does the ailment substantially limit a major life activity like walking, talking, seeing or taking care of oneself? If not, the ailment isn't a covered disability. As the following case shows, gaming the system won't work if the employer stands firm and doesn't back down.

Recent case: Alonso Myers worked as an investigator for an anti-bias agency, so he knew the law. But Myers had a history of conflict with co-workers. When some of his arguments at work were reported to police, he feared the company would fire him. So, he suddenly began wearing dark glasses to work. He told management they were "medically necessary" due to computer glare.

The employer requested medical proof, but Myers could muster only a note from a medical resident that said he may have light sensitivity. His supervisors told him to take the glasses off, so he sued under the ADA. The court tossed out the case, saying his excuse wasn't good enough to rise to the level of a disability. (Myers v. New York City Human Rights Commission, No. 04-00543, SDNY 2006)

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