I’m going to teach you — for free — a $100,000 lesson on workplace accommodations

US-$100000-GC-1934-Fr-2413 (cropped).jpg

By National Museum of American History – Image by Godot13, Public Domain, Link

Workplace accommodations can be easy.

For example, when an employee with carpal tunnel syndrome requests an ergonomic keyboard to perform his job, and his job involves a lot of typing, you get him the keyboard.

Or maybe you have an employee with Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a type of depression that is exacerbated by gray overcast skies and poor indoor lighting. Several inexpensive lighting products can enable that employee to perform the essential functions of the job.

But, where employers often run into problems is with leave as an accommodation. Job transfers too.

For example, at a Maryland bank, a branch manager in Baltimore allegedly advised a vice president that she needed surgery for a pregnancy-related disability. Supposedly, while she was on approved leave, the bank informed the branch manager that it would fill her position unless she was medically cleared to return to work within ten days. Allegedly, months later, after giving birth and receiving medical clearance to return to work, the bank required the branch manager to apply for vacant positions for which she was qualified instead of simply reassigning her to one of them as a reasonable accommodation.

This was all part of an EEOC lawsuit against the bank. (Read about it here.)

Now for the kicker, the EEOC charged, there were at least 24 vacant branch manager or assistant branch manager positions available in the greater Baltimore region at the time the manager attempted to return to work.

If true, those are not good facts for the bank because, as you smarty-pantses know:

  1. Pregnancy is not a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, but pregnant women can have pregnancy-related disabilities;
  2. the ADA also requires employers to reasonably accommodate an individual’s disability unless the employer can prove that doing so would be an undue hardship;
  3. leave may be a reasonable accommodation; and
  4. ditto reassignment to a vacant position for which the individual is qualified.

So, forcing someone to come back to work lickety-split and then making her apply for a position when there were at least 24 vacant branch manager or assistant branch manager positions available in the greater Baltimore region…🤦‍♀️

Yadda, yadda, yadda, the EEOC wins summary judgment on its reasonable accommodation claim, because the branch manager had a disability within the meaning of the ADA and was entitled to non-competitive reassignment to a vacant position for which she was qualified as a reasonable accommodation.

The case then settled for, you guessed it, $100K.

Now, who you got to win the Super Bowl? Let me know.

(As much as I’d like to see Andy Reid win his first Super Bowl, I’m taking the 49ers.)

“Doing What’s Right – Not Just What’s Legal”