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Worker has ADA-covered disability? Disclose only to those who need to know

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Employees asking for ADA disability accommodations often end up providing very private details about their health. Carefully guard that information so only those who have a real need to know about it are privy to the employee’s condition.

That means you should establish a strict protocol for distributing health-related information. Don’t ever let managers carelessly share disability details, for example, via email.

Recent case: Jerry was a 54-year-old military veteran with service-related disabilities when he was terminated from his job. He sued, alleging a long list of wrongs, including that his former employer had exacerbated his disability by creating a hostile work environment.

His complaint included the assertion that he suffers from depression and that his supervisor made the situation worse by publicly humiliating him when he asked for accommodations. According to Jerry’s complaint, the supervisor sent around an email to a group of managers that detailed his condition and symptoms. Jerry contended those man­­agers had no reason to know about his depression.

The court said such an email could be evidence of disability discrimination. The case will go forward if Jerry amends his complaint and includes more specifics about the email and the circumstances under which it was sent. He also has to provide more details on his alleged disability to show that it substantially impaired a major life function. (Grenier v. Spencer, No. 2:12-CV-0258, ED CA, 2013)

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