ADA Compliance: Depressed, Did She Give Notice Of Disability?
“This isn’t fair!” clerical worker Beatrice Alexander cried, waving a pink slip in the air. “I told my supervisor I was disabled by depression and asked if the company would stand by me
while I coped with my problem. This is how you stand by somebody?”
HR manager Florida McBean took a deep breath to compose herself.
“I’d appreciate it if you’d lower your voice, first,” Florida said firmly. “I talked at length to your supervisor. All you ever said to him was that you were having trouble with your medication, so you might miss a day here and there.
“When you kept piling up unexcused absences, we had to do something,”
Florida said. “We were eventually left with no alternative but termination.”
“You had a choice, but you just wanted to get rid of me,” Beatrice said sullenly.
Being Americans with Disabilities Act Compliant means two way communication
“And what choice would that have been?” Florida inquired politely.
“You could have accommodated my disability by being more flexible about my schedule, for one thing,” Beatrice said.
“We’d already allowed you to reduce your hours,” Florida said. “We didn’t know why you asked, but we were willing to do it. Any more accommodation would have been impractical.”
“But you didn’t even discuss it with me before you wrote the termination letter,” Beatrice said. “I don’t believe the law allows you to do that, and I’m going to see if a lawyer agrees.”
Beatrice filed an ADA lawsuit against the company, claiming it failed to reasonably accommodate her mental disability.
Did she win?
ADA Law Decision…
No, Beatrice didn’t win her ADA lawsuit. The court wouldn’t let it go to trial, and threw it out.
It’s true that an employer, if given reasonable notice that an employee may have a disability, is supposed to dialogue with the employee over a possible accommodation.
And it’s also true that the company didn’t do that here.
But the court said it didn’t have to.
Beatrice didn’t give any reasonable notice that she thought her depression was disabling. A mere comment about “trouble with her medication” was hardly enough to put the company on notice, and the unamplified statement that she might have to “miss a day here or there” wasn’t a request for accommodation.
Also, the court noted, for the company to begin a dialogue with Beatrice over an accommodation, she would have had to specify what limitations her depression placed on her. And she never did that.
What an employee must do to be in ADA Compliance
Remember, before you’re obliged to discuss an accommodation for an employee’s alleged ADA disability, the employee must:
1. Identify the disability
2. Put forward a proposed ADA Compliant accommodation
3. Explain to you which of his/her activities are affected by the disability, and how.
Cite: Rask v. Fresenius Medical Care
North America, No. 06-3923, 8th Cir.,
12/6/07. Fictionalized for dramatic effect.
Issue 6.12 DOP 1-21-08
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