Do you have a manager who wants to discipline an employee who just requested a reasonable accommodation under the ADA?
Before you approve the discipline, make sure the manager can document past problems or that the discipline is warranted based on a serious rule infraction that has happened since the request.
Otherwise, you risk an ADA retaliation lawsuit based on little more than bad timing.
Recent case: Pamela Miles-Hickman worked as a sales assistant for a homebuilder. In the past, she had received informal accommodations for her claimed disability: chemical sensitivity.
After two years on the job, she went to HR and formally requested accommodations. HR explained the accommodations process and told her what documentation to provide.
Within a few days, Miles-Hickman’s supervisor gave her negative feedback about her work—and ordered her to sell three homes within the next 30 days. No other assistants had such a quota. The company then fired her after she took a few days off for medical tests.
She sued, alleging retaliation for requesting accommodations. The court agreed she had been retaliated against and ordered back pay. (Miles-Hickman v. David Powers Homes, No. H-07-0754, SD TX, 2009)
Final note: Had HR insisted on seeing evidence of past , the court probably wouldn’t have seen the new demands and discharge as retaliation. However, the timing was highly suspect. Always consider how a judge or jury will see things. That’s especially true now that we are in an economic downturn. Juries don’t have much patience for employers these days.
- What to do when execs undermine your HR policies
- Watch out! Employee who quits can still sue
- You'll need a calendar and a calculator: Track past service to check FMLA eligibility
- Independent investigations are key to making decisions stick and avoiding retaliation claims
- Watch out if your reorg affects only one worker