Are You at Risk of Facing a Disability Discrimination Lawsuit?
The term “disability” as it applies to employees in the American workforce, is a broad one, and can include a number of impairments and conditions. For instance, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the term disability would include everything from deafness, blindness, and missing limbs, to learning disabilities.
That includes a wide spectrum of disabilities, illnesses and conditions and impairments, and therefore as an employer, you are always at risk of facing a disability discrimination lawsuit by an disgruntled employee.
However, as an employer, your focus should not be on whether your employee is a good one. In other words, focus less on understanding whether your employee qualifies as a disabled employee, and more on your compliance with the laws against disability discrimination. If you have an employee in your firm who is considered disabled, make sure that you are compliant with all the laws related to disability discrimination.
Make accommodations for the disabled employee to the best of your abilities, as long as it does not cause you undue hardship, and make sure that you hold the employee to the same job performance standard that all employees are also held. A court is hardly likely to rule that you must put up with the below- par performance of a disabled employee. What the court will consider is whether you have made sufficient accommodations to help the disabled employee perform up to the standards that have been set for all employees, disabled or otherwise. Focus more on your compliance with this law.
The court will require a disabled employee who has filed the lawsuit against a company, to prove not that he or she has a disability, but that you discriminated against him or her, and failed to provide accommodations for the disability.
Understand what conditions are included as disabilities. For instance, a pregnant employee in your office is not considered disabled. However, if she suffers from pregnancy-related complications, then she may be considered disabled. Short-term injuries or illnesses that typically last less than six months are typically not considered disability although this isn’t a hard and fast rule.