Employer pays $25K for firing worker with bipolar disorder
- Home healthcare company AccentCare, Inc., has agreed to pay $25,000 to settle a disability discrimination claim filed by a worker with bipolar disorder, says the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
- The EEOC alleged that the Dallas-based facility fired an IT analyst a day after she disclosed her bipolar disorder to request time off for treatment. The agency sued, alleging that the company fired her without considering whether her request for leave was a reasonable accommodation required by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
- In addition to agreeing to pay $25,000 to the analyst, AccentCare also agreed to provide employees with training on the ADA's reasonable accommodation process. The company also must document disability discrimination complaints and report them to the EEOC.
The ADA requires that employers provide reasonable accommodations to workers with disabilities. This can include leave, even if an employee is not entitled to any other medical leave under an employer's policy or the Family and Medical Leave Act, for example.
It also favors an informal, interactive accommodation process, which means that as soon as an employer knows or should know that an employee needs something, the company's responsibility to accommodate is triggered. (Failing to engage in the interactive process isn't a stand-alone violation, at least under federal law, but it can be evidence of discrimination.)
"Invisible disabilities," like bipolar disorder, will often (but not always) require the employee to take the first step. But once a manager is aware of a need that's due to a disability, the employer must continue to engage with the employee, even if his or her first request isn't reasonable under the ADA's standards.
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