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Supreme Court Rejects Disabled Employee’s Bid to Revive His $2.6 Million ADA Jury Verdict: Why You Should Still Regularly Update Job Descriptions and Supporting Documents

January 3, 2018

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On October 16, 2017, the Supreme Court rejected an employee’s petition for review of a decision in Stevens v Rite Aid Corporation.[1]  Stevens sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) for alleged discriminatory discharge claiming trypanophobia or “fear of needles” as a disability.  Rite Aid discharged Stevens, a pharmacist of 32 years (with Rite Aid and its predecessors), after he refused to comply with Rite Aid’s requirement that pharmacists administer immunization injections to its customers.  The Second Circuit held that administering injections was an essential function of the pharmacist position at the time of his termination, and therefore, concluded that Stevens was not a “qualified individual” with a disability.

At trial, Rite Aid personnel testified that the company made a business decision to start requiring pharmacists to perform immunizations.  While courts are required to consider a variety of factors under Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s (EEOC) regulations, many

ADA Does Not Require Employers to Provide Multi-Month Leave Beyond Expiration of FMLA Leave – Seventh Circuit

This week the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision helpful to employers grappling with whether they must extend an employee’s time off following the expiration of Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) leave as a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  See Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc., No. 15-3754, 2017 WL 4160849 (7th Cir., Sept. 20, 2017).

In Severson, the court found that “[a] multimonth leave of absence is beyond the scope of a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.”  Plaintiff, Severson, had a physically demanding job working for a fabricator of retail display fixtures.  Severson took twelve weeks of FMLA leave due to serious back pain.  During his leave, he scheduled back surgery (to occur on the last day of his FMLA leave), and requested an additional three months of leave.  Defendant, Heartland, denied Severson’s request to continue his medical leave beyond the FMLA entitlement,

Are Head Lice a Disability? Navigating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

August 25, 2017

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What if you had an employee who kept coming to work with head lice?  What should you do?  Employment lawyers get all kinds of questions about the Americans with Disabilities Act—and some of these can give you a serious case of the heebie-jeebies.  Here is a short tutorial on the basics of navigating this important law, seen through the lens of that bane of parents everywhere: the louse.

Under the ADA, a disability is (1) “a physical or mental impairment” that (2) “substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of such individual.”  Under this test, the claimant must first prove that he or she has a physical or mental impairment, which is defined as “any physiological disorder or condition.”  But what qualifies as a physiological disorder or condition?   According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “physiological” means relating to “the organic processes and phenomena of an organism or any

Temps in Tenth Circuit Face Stricter Scrutiny When Seeking Time Off as Reasonable Accommodation

On July 6, 2017, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit reiterated that physical attendance in the workplace is an essential function of most jobs and emphasized this is particularly true for temporary workers filling short-term vacancies.

In Punt v. Kelly Services, the plaintiff, Kristin Punt, was a temporary worker assigned to work for GE Controls Solutions (“GE”) as a receptionist.  The essential functions of that job included being “physically present at the lobby/reception desk during business hours.”  However, during her six weeks in the position, Ms. Punt was absent or tardy on multiple occasions, often due to medical appointments related to a recent diagnosis of breast cancer.  GE terminated her assignment after she informed GE on a Monday morning that she planned to be absent the entire week and would need unspecified additional time off for “some appointments and tests” and “five

ADA Tip: Remember To Include GINA Safe Harbor Language When Requesting Medical Information For Purposes Of Evaluating An Accommodation Request

Although employers are generally prohibited from obtaining medical information about their employees, they are permitted to do so in certain circumstances, including when such information is necessary to evaluate a job applicant’s or employee’s request for an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

When obtaining medical information as part of the ADA interactive process, however, employers must keep in mind the provisions of the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act of 2008 (GINA).  Specifically, GINA protects applicants and employees from discrimination on the basis of genetic information and prohibits covered employers from using genetic information when making decisions about employment.  Accordingly, GINA generally restricts employers from requesting genetic information, unless one of six narrow exceptions applies.

Importantly, intent is not a required element for a GINA violation.  That is, an employer can be found in violation of GINA if the employer obtains genetic information despite not requesting or having any

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