Employer documentation important in possible ADA situations

Wisconsin employers may be aware of the potential repercussions for discrimination against an employee who is disabled. However, it is also important to exercise caution in dealing with individuals who might be regarded as disabled. An Illinois community college faced legal action because of changes in work responsibilities for an adjunct professor who underwent triple bypass surgery. Although the initial court decision favored the college, an appeal partly favored the instructor, resulting in portions of the case being sent back for a jury trial.

During the spring of 2010, the instructor had agreed to teach two courses during the institution’s summer session. However, his surgery took place the month after he made this commitment. During his medical leave, officials from the institution noted problems in course records and details. The instructor informed his superiors that he would again be ready to handle a full course load the next fall. However, a meeting related to problems observed in his classroom resulted in his being given only two fall courses to teach. The institution’s officials indicated that this was because of his performance, but the plaintiff noted in his suit that a supervisor stated that the reduction in load was due to a perceived inability of the instructor to handle a greater load.

A lack of documentation from the meeting worked in favor of the instructor due to the fact that the superiors failed to note their reason for the change. This might have been handled by providing a summary of the decisions and requesting the employee’s signature as an acknowledgement. Because the man may have been regarded as disabled, the community college should have been more clear about non-health issues prompting their decision.

An individual who believes that an adverse job decision may be the result of disability discrimination might find that legal action is justified. A lawyer may review the facts of such a case to identify grounds for filing a discrimination lawsuit.

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