Even though employers must maintain confidentiality when a disabled employee receives ADA accommodations, other employees are bound to notice. For example, they might ask how the employee got a good schedule or even if she has a disability.
That doesn’t amount to disability harassment. If the disabled employee complains, simply let all employees know that any medical information is confidential and that no one should ask anyone about their private affairs.
Recent case: Sharon Dooley was diagnosed with narcolepsy and had trouble waking up in the morning. She asked for an accommodation and was allowed to pick her start time. Several co-workers asked her why, and she explained her illness.
Then she sued her employer, claiming it allowed her to be harassed by co-workers. The court disagreed, since none of the questions or comments was offensive. (Dooley v. Abbott Laboratories, No. 07-C-7249, ND IL, 2009)
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- Don't rush to judge accommodation requests; ADA requires interactive give-and-take
- Employee's religious belief doesn't let her dictate your business
- Disabled worker isn't entitled to work-at-home accommodation
- Consult attorney to prep for unemployment comp hearing
- Use formal application processes to ward off failure-to-hire/promote lawsuits