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It’s understandable that someone who has had a heart attack and taken time off to recover might assume that he’s disabled under the terms of the ADA. That’s not always the case. As is true of other conditions, it’s only a disability if the heart attack’s residual effects substantially impair a major life function.
Courts often hesitate to second-guess employers when they fire employees for what seem like honest reasons. And employers that set out clear performance expectations and then show how the terminated employee fell short rarely lose a lawsuit. That’s because, absent smoking-gun evidence of discrimination, fired employees have to prove they were meeting their employer’s legitimate expectations.
The almost universal employer response to increased workplace violence has been the implementation of so-called zero-tolerance policies. The problem with zero-tolerance rules is that they only work if they’re uniformly enforced. Employers can’t pick and choose which employee’s behavior violates the policy. To do so invites legal trouble, as the following case shows.
Courts increasingly insist that employees meet deadlines for filing EEOC or other discrimination complaints. The law allows employees just a short period of time to start the lawsuit process after an employer’s adverse decision. Smart employers have systems that precisely track internal complaints. With those in place, employers can more easily argue that the employee waited too long to sue.
The EEOC has sued an East Texas health care company for firing a housekeeper after learning she was pregnant. The federal agency sued Murphy Healthcare, which operates Frankston Healthcare Center, for firing Myesha Kerr, allegedly because it was concerned that she would be required to perform heavy lifting and be exposed to toxic chemicals.