- A Golden Corral restaurant in Georgia has agreed to pay $31,000 to settle a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) disability discrimination lawsuit involving a former server with epilepsy, according to an EEOC press statement.
- The EEOC said B. Fehr, LLC., doing business as Golden Corral, fired Alicea Cruce in 2016 and accused her of being “unwilling or unable to manage her seizure condition.” According to the complaint, Cruce had several seizures while at work. After one , the employer requested a doctor’s note prior to Cruce returning to work. Cruce was cleared to return but after another seizure, the restaurant fired her, citing her seizures. This alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the EEOC said. In its statement, the federal agency said “the employer apparently concluded Ms. Cruce's condition posed a direct threat to herself or others in the workplace, however, that determination must be based on actual evidence and not mere speculation."
- The restaurant also agreed to post a notice about the lawsuit, enact a policy forbidding discrimination, provide equal employment opportunity training to its management and non-managers and provide semi-annual reporting to the EEOC about disability discrimination complaints, the statement said.
The ADA protects employees and job applicants from discrimination based on their disability or perceived disability. The law requires that employers make reasonable accommodations for workers or applicants with disabilities, unless doing so imposes an "undue hardship" on the business. Accommodations vary depending on the needs of the individual job applicant or employee, EEOC says. The law also favors an interactive process for determining whether a reasonable accommodation is available. But employers should be aware that EEOC takes the position that employees may trigger the interactive process even without explicitly asking for an accommodation when a need is obvious.
An employer may ask for medical documentation when an individual requests reasonable accommodation, according to an EEOC enforcement guidance, but employers should require medical documentation only when necessary, experts have suggested. Employers should exercise good judgment in determining when medical documentation is necessary, Jill Luft, an attorney with Greensfelder, Hemker & Gale, P.C., previously told HR Dive. Requiring the employee to provide medical information from his or her health professional typically comes into play when the disability is largely invisible to the employer, such as migraines, diabetes or depression, Luft said.
When a disability and the need for accommodation is obvious, medical information from healthcare professionals is not necessary, Luft said. A face-to-face discussion between the employer and the employee regarding the employee’s disability and the functional limitations posed by the disability is enough to determine what types of accommodations can be made that will allow the employee to perform the job, she said.
David K. Fram, director of the National Employment Law Institute’s ADA and Equal Employment Opportunity Services, has suggested that HR train supervisors to ask “How can I help you?” when presented with a situation in which reasonable accommodations may come into play.