UPS recently agreed to pay a $2M to settle a disability discrimination suit brought by the EEOC relative to its maximum leave policy. The company’s policy required “administrative separation” if an employee was unable to return to work after 12 months.  The EEOC said this inflexible leave policy violated the ADA. In addition to the $2M, UPS agreed to update its policies on reasonable accommodation to include extended leaves of absence; improve implementation of its interactive process; conduct ADA training for management; and submit reports regarding its compliance for 3 years. Continue Reading Maximum Leave Policies Can Cost Employers – Big Time

A pharmacist was terminated after he claimed he was unable to administer vaccinations to customers.  Christopher Stevens sued Rite Aid for discrimination, retaliation and failure to accommodate under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other state non-discrimination laws.  The jury awarded him $2.6 million, including $900,000 in non-economic damages.

By way of background, Rite Aid revised the job description for its pharmacists to require an immunization certification and made administering vaccinations an essential function of the job. Stevens, who suffers from trypanophobia (fear of needles), claimed he was disabled under the ADA and requested a reasonable accommodation excusing him from giving injections.  Rite Aid determined that Stevens was not disabled under the ADA, and therefore, it was not required to offer him reasonable accommodation. Instead, Rite Aid informed Stevens that if he did not comply with the vaccination requirement, he would be terminated. Stevens was thereafter discharged for refusing to perform an essential function of his job. For full text of decision click here. Continue Reading 2d Circuit Court of Appeals reverses $2.6 million jury verdict in disability discrimination case

The Americans with Disabilities Act was amended in 2008 (“ADAAA”) and imposed a number of significant changes, particularly as to the determination of who has a “disability” under the ADA.  The ADAAA overturned several major Supreme Court cases and caused concern amongst employers attempting to figure out how the changes would impact their obligations under the ADA. 

Employers now have additional guidance because while the ADAAA was effective January 1, 2009, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) final regulations implementing the ADAAA were released and effective March 25, 2011. 

Available on the Federal Register website, the regulations do not change the definition of the term “disability,” but, instead, put into practice the significant changes in how the definition is to be interpreted. 

The EEOC has stated that the regulations adopted “rules of construction” to use when determining if an individual has a disability.  These principles include the following:

  • The term “substantially limits” or requires a lower degree of functional limitation than the standard previously applied by the court and is to be construed broadly, in favor of expansive coverage;
  • With one exception (ordinary eyeglasses or contact lenses), the determination of whether an impairment substantially limits a major life activity shall be made without regard to effects of mitigating measures to improve the impairment, such as medication or hearing aids;
  • An impairment that is episodic or in remission is still a disability, if it would substantially limit a major life activity when active.

In addition, the regulations clarify that the term “major life activities” includes “major body functions,” such as functions of the immune system, and provides examples of impairments that should virtually always constitute a disability (including cancer, epilepsy, and bipolar disorder).

Employers should become familiar with the EEOC’s final regulations and must be careful in applying the new law as it is now easier for individuals to establish coverage under the ADA.