- A lawsuit stemming from a firing decision at a Connecticut university recently revealed one growing concern for ADA compliance: managing employees diagnosed with early onset dementia, CNBC reports.
- At the heart of the case at Sacred Heart University is that the employee was given two options: take short-term disability or lose his position. The employee refused and was fired. He then sued, believing he was fired unfairly and that he could still perform the "essential functions" of his job.
- The ADA does not specifically mention dementia or its like in the law, but lawyers interviewed by CNBC note that dementia would very likely fall under its purview.
Hidden disabilities are a considerable and important aspect of employee performance management. If an employer opts to fire or not hire, it must be prepared to explain why the employee couldn't perform the "essential functions" of the job — and know for a fact exactly which functions of a job are the truly essential ones. This case will be interesting to watch, as that question is at the heart of the debate.
More generally, an employer who is concerned about retaining and accommodating employees with disability will want to pay attention to hidden disabilities, like mental illness, as those employees tend to feel more unhappy at work than those with more visible disabilities. A strong company culture of support and openness is key.
This issue is not likely to go away, especially as employee populations continue to keep older employees — and as workplaces continue to redefine what retirement means.