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For a quick trip to court, allow casual accommodations for some but not others

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in FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

Here’s a tip that can save you from a needless lawsuit: Make sure managers and supervisors aren’t using their own judgment about who deserves a job accommodation for medical reasons.

If an employee has a medical restriction that interferes with her ability to perform essential functions, make sure HR gets involved. Your department is in charge of all final accommodations decisions, including maintaining all the paperwork.

Recent case: Kelly worked as a manager at a Dollar General retail store. When she was expecting her second child, her doctor said she had a high-risk pregnancy and gave her a medical restriction: No lifting more than 20 pounds. Her job description (like that of all store employees) required occasional lifting of up to 50 pounds as an essential function of the job.

Kelly was placed on FMLA leave. When she couldn’t get the restriction rescinded after 12 weeks, Dollar Gen­­eral terminated her.

She sued, alleging that many other workers who were not pregnant had similar lifting or other medical restrictions, but had been able to keep their jobs because of informal accommodations that helped them work safely.

That was enough for the court to say the case could go forward. (Hesse v. Dollar General, No. 10-CV-421, WD NY, 2014)

Final note: Somewhere along the line, a Dollar General manager asked Kelly if she planned to get pregnant again. While not deciding the issue, the court speculated that that kind of questioning might be considered pregnancy discrimination.

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