Disability and hostile work environments

Although most Wisconsin employees and supervisors understand that making fun of another employee’s disability is never acceptable in the workplace, it can still occasionally happen. Supervisors especially should remember that it is their responsibility to stop any harassment against employees as soon as possible. Additionally, they are required to take steps that will prevent the harassment in the future.

The reminder came from a recent case where an employee’s co-workers and supervisors made fun of the employee’s degenerative condition through name-calling. The employee stated that this continued daily. When the employee’s condition worsened and he informed his superior that he may need to take FMLA leave in order to receive medical treatment, he was terminated. The reason was reportedly for failing to do his work and engaging in non-work activities while he was on the clock.

The employee ultimately filed a lawsuit against his employer, claiming that he was forced to work in a hostile environment. Further, he claimed that his FMLA leave request was ignored, even though he believed that it was essentially a request for reasonable accommodations. The court agreed that the accusations were indicative of a hostile work environment and that the case could move forward.

Employees have the legal right to request leave from their workplace if they have a baby, adopt a child or if they or a family member need treatment and care under the Family and Medical Leave Act. If they are denied leave even if they have time left or if they are discriminated for taking their leave, a federal FMLA attorney may potentially assist. If the employee was terminated or lost income due to requesting leave, the attorney may assist with seeking compensation for income that they lost and potentially for other benefits associated with their work.

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