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Case In Point

Mindy Chapman Esq. is the founder of the nationally acclaimed “Workplace
Training that Clicks & Sticks™” and co-author of the American Bar
Association’s best seller and authority on civil rights training, “Case
Dismissed! Taking Your Harassment Prevention Training to Trial.” Case In Point is an entertaining look at the employment law cases impacting you today, plus practical ways to protect yourself and your company.

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We all know by now that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) allows qualified employees to request “reasonable accommodations” to perform the essential functions of their jobs. Employer and employee must engage in an “informal, interactive process” to identify what is a reasonable accommodation. But, what if an employee gives you a laundry list of accommodations to consider? Do you have to go back and forth about every single one? When does the employer get to draw the line? One court recently warned employers that if the “ADA request ball” is in your court…you had better lob it back to the employee.

When employees suffer temporary disabilities, good employers make good-faith efforts to accommodate. Sometimes that includes placing the employee on a light-duty assignment and temporarily cutting out an essential function of her job. But can that employee legally demand that the light-duty job remain permanently? A new ruling this week offers a good lesson – and some extra words to add to your organization’s job descriptions …
Federal law requires your organization to grant “reasonable” accommodations for employees’ religious practices. Where’s the line between reasonable and unreasonable? God only knows. But this important new ruling sheds light on when you can say “no” to religious requests …
Anyway you slice it, employers these days should never deny an employee’s religious accommodation request without first checking with a lawyer. It’s just all very complicated with so many religions and their different rules on grooming, clothing and attendance. But can you draw the line when a religion requires followers to wear a sword—even in the workplace?

Before your organization disciplines an employee, it's always important to ask these questions: Have other employees violated the same policy? If so, what action did we take against that other employee? How similar are those two situations? One court recently said employers shouldn't search for “identical” situations—“similar” is good enough. In fact, if you don’t discipline “similarly” you might end up with double trouble, as this employer did …



Over the next five years, an estimated 300,000 service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserves, will annually leave the military. Many will be rejoining your workforce, and federal law says they're entitled to be given their jobs back. One court recently clarified that military employees may also be entitled to a discretionary promotion that they may have earned while they were away serving our country ...

Employers have been told for years that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires them to accommodate disabled employees so they can perform the essential functions of the job. So if an office worker has a back injury, then you may need to provide a certain type of ergonomic chair, right? A desk job needs a chair.

But what if that same office worker asks for a parking spot closer to the building? How is that request tied to the essential functions of her desk job? As this new ADA-expanding court ruling shows, you may need to be more open to accommodating any kind of accommodation request—not just one that’s linked to the job’s essential functions ...
On the opening day of the NFL season, we pause today to recognize the football-related expressions that have seeped into the workplace. We ask employees to “quarterback” a project. We develop a “game plan” for the big meeting. We praise workers who are “on the ball.” But as a new court ruling shows, supervisors who misuse sports analogies at work could find themselves benched in a federal courtroom …
Your waitress says, “We don't have Diet Coke. We have Diet Pepsi. Will that be okay?" Both will wash down your burger and both have zero calories. But are they otherwise equivalent enough to be substitutes? When an employee returns from absences that are covered under Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), he or she is entitled to “the same or an equivalent position” (see box below). But what counts as “equivalent”? As this new court ruling shows, it goes beyond simple pay, benefits and working conditions ...
Now that the U.S. Supreme Court has recently defined who is a “supervisor,” can employers finally relax and cut down on their employment liability insurance? Nope. Not so fast. One court recently ruled that even a manager who can’t “hire, fire or discipline” can still hold a company responsible for Title VII harassment liability if he or she fails to send an employee’s complaint to the correct links on the corporate chain.
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