Employers can be liable under the ADA if they “regard” someone as disabled—that is, assuming and acting as if the person has a disability. That’s true whether the worker is disabled or not. Telling an employee she should pick up medical forms to apply for disability benefits and sending her home until she does apply probably means the employer regarded the employee as disabled.
Discrimination and Harassment
Discrimination and harassment claims often increase in a down economy. Learn the proper techniques for conducing proper workplace harassment investigations, providing sexual harassment training, and more to reduce claims of employment discrimination and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.
It’s hard to convince a judge or jury that the same person who hired someone knowing his protected status would later turn around and fire that employee because of that very protected status. That’s one reason you should keep careful track of which manager recommended hiring someone who is obviously a member of a protected class—such as an employee who is disabled because of a missing limb.
Rest easy: You can talk about an employee’s pregnancy while also discussing discipline against her. As long as you make it clear that you are disciplining the employee because of issues that have nothing to do with her pending childbirth, mentioning pregnancy while discussing potential penalties won’t make you lose a discrimination suit.
It doesn’t take much for an employee who has been terminated to take a discrimination claim to court. For example, all a woman has to allege is that she is a member of a protected class (female), was qualified for her job, was discharged and was replaced by someone who is not a member of her protected class—that is, that a man replaced her. It’s then up to the employer to prove it had a legitimate, unrelated reason for the termination. It can’t rely strictly on her status as at-will.