Employee prone to ­mistakes? That doesn’t mean she’s disabled

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Some employees can’t seem to get it together and do their jobs properly. While an underlying medical or psychological problem may be the cause, don’t assume that’s the case if the employee hasn’t asked for help or a reasonable accommodation. It’s up to her to raise the possibility.

Recent case: D’Anna worked for Lehigh University planning student activities. Over the years, she took many short-term leaves for her own medical treatment and surgeries and to care for her daughter. Lehigh never balked at granting FMLA leave for her.

Then, during D’Anna’s last year at Lehigh, she began making more errors than in the past.

When placed on a performance improvement plan, she blamed menopause for her disorganized and mistake-prone work and said she might get some testing done to pinpoint the problem. She neither asked for time off, nor requested reasonable accommodations.

Shortly after, she was terminated for poor performance. Then she was diagnosed with attention deficit disorder.

She sued, alleging her employer should have known she was disabled.

The court didn’t buy the argument. It pointed out that if D’Anna didn’t know what was wrong at the time, the university couldn’t have known it either. Her case was dismissed. (Fuoco v. Lehigh University, No. 11-CV-6117, ED PA, 2013)

Final note: Even if you suspect medical problems, focus on job performance. Let the employee ask for help. Remember, if you “regard” an employee as if she’s disabled, you may be violating the ADA.

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