On March 6, 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) filed a lawsuit against ABM Aviation, Inc. (“ABM”) on behalf of a former employee alleging disability discrimination and failure to provide a reasonable accommodation.
According to the claim, ABM allegedly knew the employee had been diagnosed with leukemia when she was hired. Additionally, the EEOC claimed that, after undergoing emergency services, the employee was told she could only return to work if she had no medical restrictions and that her employment would be terminated if she was unable to work without restrictions. The EEOC also claimed that ABM’s decision to suspend the employee for absences that were allegedly due to her disabilities and then firing her for allegedly violating its attendance policy was unlawful discrimination.
The press release the EEOC published quoted Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, saying that “ABM recklessly disregarded the federally protected rights of this employee to earn a living and provide for her family given a reasonable accommodation…The EEOC will continue to hold employers accountable for failing to honor anti-discrimination laws if we are to see significant, long-term change in the way society views individuals with disabilities and the value they add to workforce.”
COUNSEL TO MANAGEMENT:
Regular and predictable attendance is key for all employers, and most employers have attendance policies that provide for discipline, up to and including termination, for employees who are frequently late or absent from work. However, the difficulty for employers is that federal and state law requiring reasonable accommodation places requirements on employers that impose restrictions on an employers’ ability to discipline employees with qualifying disabilities for disability-related absences. Whether you are an employer with a formulaic, point-based attendance policy or you have no-call/no-show policies, these polices must be administered in such a way as to not interfere with employees’ rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act or California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.
Employers are likely to encounter claims like this one if they refuse to allow time off for doctors’ visits or for flare-ups that incapacitate employees, or if they discipline an employee for a disability-related absence. Navigating reasonable accommodation requests is extremely difficult, and employers with questions about how to handle such requests or regarding their interactive process and attendance policies are encouraged to contact the experts at the Saqui Law Group.