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Category Archives: Disability

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Eleventh Circuit Widens Circuit Split on Accommodation Issue

Posted in Disability
Consider the following scenario: Because of a disability an employee is unable to perform an essential function of his or her current position and there is no reasonable accommodation that will enable the employee to remain in that position. The disability, however, will not prevent the employee from performing the essential functions of an open position for which the employee is qualified. A number of courts presented with this scenario have had to decide the extent to which the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) mandates that the employer assign the disabled worker to the open position as a reasonable accommodation without requiring the employee to compete for the position with other qualified candidates.… Continue Reading

Sixth Circuit Upends EEOC Victory in Telecommuting Case

Posted in Disability
We previously reported on a decision by a panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Equal Opportunity Employment Commission v. Ford Motor Co., in which the panel held that the EEOC was entitled to a jury trial on its claim that Ford discharged an employee in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) after it denied her request to work from home 4 days per week as an accommodation for her irritable bowel syndrome (“IBS”). In an en banc decision the Sixth Circuit has now reversed the original panel’s decision, concluding that the district court properly granted Ford’s motion for summary judgment on the ADA claim. In so ruling, the Court credited Ford’s business judgment that the employee’s presence in the work place was an essential function of her job, and thus her request to telecommute four days per week was not a request for a reasonable accommodation to which Ford had to accede. The EEOC had heralded the original panel’s decision as a major victory. The Sixth Circuit’s en banc reversal of that decision should be cause for equal celebration by employers.… Continue Reading

Federal Court of Appeals Addresses Testing Employees for Lawful Prescription Drug Use

Posted in Disability
The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) makes it unlawful for an employer to either require its employees to undergo medical examinations or make disability-related inquiries that cannot be justified as “job related and consistent with business necessity.” The statute, however, expressly provides that testing an employee for illegal drug use is not a “medical examination” that must be justified under this standard. But what about an employer, who, because of safety concerns, requires employees to be tested for substances for which the employee has a valid prescription? Does such a test constitute a medical examination or a disability-related inquiry? In Bates v. Dura Automotive Systems, Inc., the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit recently undertook to provide guidance on this issue. The Court concluded that whether testing for prescription drugs constitutes a medical examination or a disability-related inquiry for ADA purposes depends on the specific facts of the case at hand and, ultimately, may be an issue for a jury to resolve. It is clear that this is an area where employers must tread carefully. The difficulty of implementing a prescription drug testing program that will comply with the ADA suggests that such testing should be used only as a last resort when other safety measures have proved insufficient.… Continue Reading

EEOC Focusing on Telecommuting as a Reasonable Accommodation

Posted in Disability
The EEOC is heralding a recent decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Equal Opportunity Employment Commission v. Ford Motor Co., a case in which the agency brought suit on behalf of a Ford employee who alleged she was terminated in retaliation for filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. In her charge, the employee alleged Ford violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by not allowing her to telecommute to work. The district court granted Ford’s motion for summary judgment, but, in a 2-to-1 decision, the Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that the EEOC had presented evidence sufficient to survive summary judgment that (a) by requesting to telecommute the employee had sought a reasonable accommodation for her disability and (b) the alternative accommodations offered by the company were insufficient. Of concern to employers is the little weight given by the majority opinion to the employer’s business judgment that the employee’s presence in the workplace was an essential function of her job. … Continue Reading

New York City Now Requires Reasonable Accommodation of Pregnant Employees

Posted in Disability
On October 2, 2013, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law Int. No. 974-2012A, amending the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) to prohibit discrimination in employment based on pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. The law goes into effect on January 30, 2014. It prohibits an employer from refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to the needs of an employee for her pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition that will allow the employee to perform the essential requisites of the job. According to the New York City Council's legislative findings accompanying the amendment, reasonable accommodations for an employee's pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition may include "bathroom breaks, leave for a period of disability arising from childbirth, breaks to facilitate increased water intake, periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of time, and assistance with manual labor."… Continue Reading

Employee’s Facebook Posting Sinks Her FMLA Discrimination and Retaliation Claims

Posted in Disability, Family Leave
A Family and Medical Leave Act ("FMLA") plaintiff's leave was proven fraudulent through her Facebook postings, resulting in summary judgment for her employer, dismissing her complaint. The Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan concluded that the employer's reason for her termination was legitimate and unrelated to her exercise of FMLA rights.… Continue Reading

Fourth Circuit Says Preferential Treatment for Pregnant Employees Not Required

Posted in Disability
Pregnant employees who seek accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) need not be offered special treatment, the Fourth Circuit ruled on January 9, 2013. The ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals "on the basis of disability." The PDA, enacted in 1978, amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to specifically prohibit discrimination in employment "because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions."… Continue Reading

The New Jersey Appellate Division Holds that Requiring Self-Declared Alcoholics to Abstain From Alcohol Use and to Submit to Alcohol Testing Constitutes Handicap Discrimination in Employment

Posted in Disability
In a recent decision, A.D.P. v. ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, the New Jersey Appellate Division held that an employer's drug and alcohol policy requiring recovering alcoholics to submit to periodic testing to determine whether they have used alcohol since returning to work after undergoing rehabilitation constitutes handicap discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 (the "LAD"). The decision presumably applies as well to recovering drug addicts. Employers with alcohol and drug policies should immediately evaluate and, if necessary, modify them in light of the Court's decision.… Continue Reading

Richard Zackin to Speak at Upcoming Law Seminars Telebriefing – November 29

Posted in Disability
Richard Zackin, along with Douglas Arone of Chubb & Son, will speak at the Law Seminars telebriefing on the "EEOC v. United Airlines: New Case Law for Filling Vacant Positions Under the ADA" on November 29 at 1:00 EST. This panel will analyze the court's reasoning, discuss the practical implications of the decision for employers, and address the issue of extended leaves of absence under the ADA for employees with disabilities.… Continue Reading

EEOC v. United Airlines, Part II — Denying a Disabled Employee’s Request to Fill a Vacant Position as an Accommodation Because More Qualified Candidates are Available Remains Problematic Under the ADA

Posted in Disability
Four months ago we reported on the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upholding United Airlines' position in a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that United did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by its policy of filling vacant positions with the most qualified candidate even though another employee, unable to perform his own job because of a disability, had applied for the vacant position as a reasonable accommodation. The three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit that issued that decision has now vacated its opinion and has decided the case in favor of the EEOC. The panel's reversal of its position is not that surprising. The panel originally ruled in favor of United because it felt bound by a Seventh Circuit ruling in a similar case decided in 2000, EEOC v. Humiston-Keeling. The panel, however, questioned that earlier decision in light of the Supreme Court's 2002 decision in US Airways, Inc. v. Barnett and thus recommended that the issue be considered by the court en banc (i.e. by the entire membership of the Seventh Circuit). The EEOC promptly moved for reconsideration en banc. Each member of the court expressed the view that EEOC v. Humiston-Keeling should be overruled and, in lieu of formally rehearing the case en banc, simply directed the original panel to vacate its decision and issue a new opinion.… Continue Reading

Gibbons Labor & Employment Practice Highlighted By Chambers USA

Posted in Disability, Labor
The Gibbons Employment & Labor Department, and three of its attorneys, were among the 10 Gibbons practice areas and 20 individual attorneys ranked in the 2012 edition of the Chambers USA Guide to America's Leading Lawyers for Business. Chambers annually rates the nation's leading business lawyers and law firms through comprehensive interviews with top companies, attorneys, and business executives, plus extensive supplementary research.… Continue Reading

Denying a Disabled Employee’s Request to Fill a Vacant Position as an Accommodation Because More Qualified Candidates are Available Remains Problematic Under the ADA

Posted in Disability
Are employers obligated, as a reasonable accommodation, to fill a vacant position with an employee whose disability renders him unable to perform his own job when other candidates for the vacant position are more qualified? The position of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that employers have that obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was recently rejected by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. But the panel took the unusual step of recommending that the issue be considered by the court en banc (i.e. by the entire membership of the Seventh Circuit). In the great majority of circuits, the issue remains unsettled, and employers must tread carefully when responding to such accommodation requests.… Continue Reading

New Jersey Framework for Analyzing Attorneys’ Fee Awards, Including Contingency Fee Enhancements, Unchanged

Posted in Disability, Discrimination
Last week, the New Jersey Supreme Court reiterated that lawyers who represent clients on a contingency basis in disputes brought under New Jersey laws that permit the recovery of attorneys' fees can recover an additional fee "enhancement" pursuant to the framework the Court set forth nearly 20 years ago in Rendine v. Pantzer, 141 N.J. 292 (1995) . The decision, Walker v. Guiffre, Case Nos. 72-10, 100-10 (N.J. Jan. 25, 2012), is noteworthy for businesses that all too frequently must weigh the risk of paying their opponents' attorneys' fees when deciding whether to settle disputes - particularly those companies that wishfully thought the reins on contingency fee enhancers might be tightened in light of two recent decisions by New Jersey appellate courts.… Continue Reading

Reasonable Accommodation May Include Assisting Employee’s Commute to Work, Holds 2nd Circuit

Posted in Disability
Joining a growing number of jurisdictions, including the Third and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, covering the states of New York, Connecticut and Vermont, has held that under certain circumstances, an employer may be required to assist disabled employees with their commute to work as a reasonable accommodation under both the Americans with Disabilities Act("ADA") and the Rehabilitation Act. The Court's decision in Nixon-Tinkelman v. N.Y. Dep't of Health & Mental Hygiene highlights an employer's obligation to consider reasonable accommodations requested by employees with disability-related commuting problems.… Continue Reading

Amendments to the Regulations Implementing Title II and Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act

Posted in Disability
Amendments to the regulations implementing Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), 28 CFR 35.101 et seq., which applies to public entities, went into effect on March 15, 2011. A public entity is defined in the regulations as: "(1) Any state or local government; (2) Any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a State or States or local government; and (3) The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, and any commuter authority (as defined in section 103(8) of the Rail Passenger Service Act)." See 28 CFR 35.104. On the same date, amendments to the regulations implementing Title III of the ADA, 28 CFR 36.101 et seq., which applies to public accommodations (including private businesses that fall within one of twelve categories established by the statute) and commercial facilities also went into effect.… Continue Reading

Cancer in Remission is Disability under the ADAAA

Posted in Disability
In holding that an employee with cancer in remission is "disabled" under the expanded definition of "disability" in the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act ("ADAAA"), a federal court has signaled a major change in the way courts have considered cases involving diseases that are in remission. The case is among the first in the nation to interpret the extent to which the Act broadens the scope of the conditions that may qualify as a "disability." Specifically, the court addressed that portion of the ADAAA that defines "disability" to include "an impairment that is episodic or in remission is a disability if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active."… Continue Reading