He is associate medical director at one of the nation's largest insurance companies, but he has a perspective on disabilities and employer accommodations that might surprise a few of our readers. Dr. Michael Lacroix recently wrote an article in which he described the moaning and groaning he has heard from employers unhappy with their obligations under the Family Medical Leave Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Since enactment of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, millions of employees have been protected from workplace discrimination based on disability. According to a recent report, more and more Americans are using the law to protect themselves and others.
Companies that are determined to have violated provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act sometimes hope they can negotiate a settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, write a check and make their problems evaporate.
Wisconsin workers may be interested to learn that a federal court has ruled that a poultry feed company violated federal anti-discrimination laws by making job applicants disclose their personal health histories before they could be considered for employment. The consent judgment, which was entered into on June 8, settled a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a job applicant with disabilities.
Many Wisconsin residents shop at Lowe's for their home improvement needs. They may be interested to learn that thousands of its former workers may receive compensation for wrongful termination. The company recently agreed to settle a slew of employment discrimination claims for $8.6 million. The lawsuit, filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleged violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
A 2015 EEOC lawsuit may cause Wisconsin employers to take note of communications with employees in cases involving potential discrimination investigations. The case that brings this concern to light involves an electrician working for an engineering and construction company. The firm reportedly terminated the man because of his disability, failing to provide reasonable accommodations. He subsequently filed a complaint with the EEOC.
Some employers in Wisconsin and elsewhere seem to have a poor understanding of their responsibilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as the rights of their employees under the law. When an employer violates the provisions of the ADA, resulting in harm to a disabled employee, the employee may file a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
A noteworthy employment law challenge brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was struck down by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in 2015. In April 2016, it was revealed that the EEOC had appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit. The original decision concerned a Wisconsin manufacturer that forced its workers to undergo a wellness program before they could be covered under the company's health plan. The court ruled that this practice fell under the allowed exceptions of the Americans with Disabilities Act because it counted as risk underwriting.
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.
In a ruling that disabled professionals in Wisconsin and other states may find interesting, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit decided in favor of United Airlines after the company ceased honoring a disabled employee's job reassignment. Although the man subsequently brought a discrimination claim against the airline, on Dec. 3, the court ruled that the employer wasn't bound by the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide a guarantee of reassignment because it had a seniority system in place for determining who should receive jobs.