Here’s what not to do when an employee discloses her disability on her first day of work.


The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently sued an employer who told an employee to leave on her first day of work shortly after she requested reasonable accommodations for her visual impairments and later fired her the same day after the employee’s advocate offered to pay for accommodations.

Here’s more from the EEOC’s press release:

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, after the [employee] informed [the employer] about her vision impairments and need for accommodation, the employer questioned why she did not raise these issues in her interview, and immediately terminated her. The employer ignored her later communications asking to remain employed, as well as subsequent overtures from her vocational representative to install and fund the accommodations, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from soliciting information pertaining to an applicant’s disability prior to a job offer. The ADA also prohibits an employer from refusing to employ a worker who might need a reasonable accommodation in an attempt to avoid accommodating the employee’s disability.

Curious, I read the EEOC’s complaint to find out what the employee requested. She wanted “Optelec Magnification and Zoomtext software.” Not familiar with either, I went to Optelec’s website and found an Optelec PowerSliderTM Hand-Held Magnifier for $51.45. ZoomText has various purchase options, from a monthly $85 fee to a one-time purchase price of $800. So, all in, the company, which operates at five locations, would’ve had to pay less than $900 to accommodate this individual.

An employer does not have to provide a reasonable accommodation that would cause an “undue hardship” to the employer. The undue hardship analysis involves an individualized assessment of current circumstances, showing that a specific reasonable accommodation would cause significant difficulty or expense.

Even if $851.45 created an undue hardship for employment, the employer could ask the employee to pay for a portion of the accommodation cost. Here, the employee’s advocate offered to install and pay for the software. So, not refusing the accommodation altogether is puzzling.

As for the employee’s failure to disclose her disability during the interview, the ADA doesn’t require it. Indeed, it prohibits all pre-offer disability-related inquiries and medical examinations, even if job-related. Instead, what an employer can do is ask an individual how they can perform job functions. Only after making a conditional job offer can an employer ask about disabilities and conduct medical examinations, as long as it does so for all entering employees in the same job category.

Hopefully, for the employer’s sake, there’s a perfectly reasonable excuse for what allegedly happened here. Otherwise, I expect to read another EEOC press release soon announcing a settlement.

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