Yesterday, the EEOC released its FY2015 Enforcement and Litigation Data. Consistent with prior years, claims of retaliation continue to dominate (44.5% of all claims filed with the EEOC). Race is second (34.7%). But, it’s disability discrimination — up a whopping 6% from 2014 — that should have your attention.
What’s driving this spike? There are a couple of factors:
- Since the Americans with Disabilities Act was amended in 2009, there are many more people who are considered to have a disability. Indeed, the emphasis is less on whether an individual has a disability, and more on whether a reasonable accommodation exists enable that employee to perform the essential functions of the job.
- Less sophisticated businesses are not prepared to engage employees in an interactive process to address requests for accommodation.
- Given the overlap between a serious health condition and a disability, it’s easy to pair an FMLA claim with an ADA claim.
- Many business don’t buy flood insurance until they’ve had a flood. Especially in a flat economy, many businesses are reactive to lawsuits and do not invest in ways to proactively to avoid them. One easy way to be proactive is to update handbooks to include disability-accommodation policies.
Another easy way to reduce the risk of disability discrimination claims in 2016 is to train employees on how to request disability accommodations, and also train managers on how to address those requests for accommodation. Communication and preparedness are two cornerstones of a compliant workplace.