- The U.S. Equal Employment Commission (EEOC) has sued Interconnect Cable Technology, alleging it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it demoted and fired a long-time employee after her hospitalization for mental illness.
- The employee was promoted and held several positions during her 20 years with the electronics manufacturer but shortly after her hospitalization for a "major depressive disorder," the company's chief financial officer "immediately stripped the employee of her job duties," EEOC claimed. The CFO then allegedly demoted her and cut her pay. The company ultimately fired her, EEOC said in a March 20 statement.
- The Commission has asked for back pay, damages and training for the company's managers and supervisors.
The ADA is clear that employers generally need to accommodate workers with disabilities. The law requires employers with 15 or more employees to provide reasonable accommodations for employees and job applicants with disabilities unless the employer would suffer an undue hardship as a result. Undue hardship means that, taking into account the employer's size, financial resources, and the needs of the business, the accommodation would be "too difficult or too expensive to provide," EEOC has said in guidance.
Once an employee has requested an accommodation, experts recommend employers engage in an interactive process to identify possible solutions. Because the ADA does not require that accommodation requests be in writing or that specific language be used, experts say employers should develop a system that helps managers and supervisors recognize accommodation requests.
Whenever an employee reveals a need or a problem, to ensure that requests for ADA accommodation start off on a good legal footing, sources previously told HR Dive that HR may want to train supervisors to ask: "How can I help you?" After that, managers should communicate with the employee to determine a reasonable accommodation, documenting each step and communication along the way.
Once an accommodation has been put into place, supervisors should follow up to make sure the accommodation is working well. If not, they need to pursue a new one, David K. Fram, the director of ADA and EEO services for the National Employment Law Institute, has said.
Accommodations can take many forms, and they don't have to be expensive or elaborate. Something as simple or inexpensive as a chair for an employee with a back problem or a nearby container of orange juice for a worker with diabetes may suffice. The EEOC clearly takes the position that modifying a workplace policy because of an employee's disability can be a reasonable accommodation, it has explained. Another reasonable accommodation may involve additional leave time beyond what is otherwise provided.