Star of ‘Blue Bloods’ accuses CBS of disability discrimination

Here in Milwaukee, fans of the CBS cop drama ‘Blue Bloods’ may be aware of the real life legal issue troubling the show’s star Jennifer Esposito. The actress, who has celiac disease, has accused CBS of placing her on unpaid leave rather than accommodating the needs she has due to a disability.

Of course, under the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers must work with disabled employees in order to come up with reasonable accommodations that allow them to do their jobs. In Esposito’s case, she has said CBS failed to accommodate her needs causing her to ultimately collapse on set before she was placed on leave.

Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder that requires a special diet. Those with celiac disease might suffer from abdominal pain and a decreased absorption of nutrients that can cause vitamin deficiencies and other complications.

Esposito’s doctor has reportedly said that she needed to work a reduced schedule, and CBS took this to mean she could not meet the demands of her role.

It does not appear to have been reported whether CBS attempted to work with Esposito to come up with accommodations that would allow her to perform her job in a way that would not infringe on her health. Possible options could have been to provide her a trailer room where she could rest, as well as provide for certain dietary needs, and reasonably reduce her time on set.

When a disability requires a reduced work schedule, however, the implications of the ADA become very complicated. In general, an employer must work with the employee to find reasonable accommodations that do not pose an undue hardship on the employer or completely change the job role.

Even if it would have imposed an undue hardship on CBS to reduce Esposito’s hours, it may still be held responsible for an ADA violation if it failed to even work with Esposito and her doctor to see if a suitable schedule was possible. Too often, employers assume disabled workers cannot do the job, so they put them on leave or fire them without even attempting to hold a discussion about accomodations. This often violates federal employment law.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, “Does Sidelined ‘Blue Bloods’ Star Jennifer Esposito Have a Case Against CBS? (Analysis)” Eriq Gardner, Oct. 24, 2012

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