Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) prohibits private employers, state and local governments, employment agencies and labor unions from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in job applications, hiring, firing, advancement, compensation, job training, and in other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.
The ADA covers employers with 15 or more employees, including state and local governments. It also applies to employment agencies and labor organizations.
Almost 4 years ago, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADAAA) in an effort to further protect the rights of individuals with disabilities. The ADAAA expanded the definition of “disability” under the ADA and gave employers greater responsibility for providing reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities.
In March 2011, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued regulations interpreting the new ADAAA, which became effective in May 2011. Under these regulations, it is more difficult for an employer to successfully assert that a physical or mental impairment is not a disability and employers must instead focus on requirements for making reasonable accommodations for disabled employees so that they may perform essential job functions.
As recently as November 2012, the EEOC hosted a seminar where the Commission made clear that it will look at an employer’s failure to accommodate reasonable accommodation requests very closely in 2013 and beyond.
If you do not currently accommodate non-work related restrictions and require an employee to be released to return to work without restrictions following a leave, this practice will need to be re-evaluated. Your requirement may be considered a non-accommodation by the EEOC, which may determine that you are eliminating disabled persons from working or rejoining your workforce.
Based on this information, we have revised our system at BCN to ensure that we are not discriminating against disabled persons when they are rejoining the workforce from a Family Medical Leave (FMLA), or other personal/medical leaves. We now look more closely at persons who are ready to return to work, but have some restrictions, and how we can work with our clients on a case-by-case basis to accommodate those restrictions. We want to accommodate where appropriate, and what may have seemed an unreasonable accommodation in the past will need to be re-evaluated.
The Human Resources Department at BCN closely monitors legislation and pending litigation addressing these sorts of issues in the workplace, and how it may affect our clients and their business. Call us at 800-891-9911 or contact us with questions or we can assist in a specific situation.
Kate Douglass, SR. HR Generalist