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The Rising Cost Of Denying Access To Those With Disabilities

The Rising Cost Of Denying Access To Those With DisabilitiesDavid is the manager of neighborhood pharmacy.

He is task-oriented and needs to be as his store is short staffed.  While David has always been fair, he is upset with Tommy; his evening manager who comes in one day with doctor’s notes and his arm in a cast.  Tommy needed accommodation that he is entitled to through the Americans with Disabilities.

David at first didn’t understand and stated,” It’s just a broken arm.” But Tommy’s injury interferes with a major life activity such as eating and dressing. Tommy required more time to complete his tasks while he was disabled.  David was less than supportive and reluctantly gave Tommy extra time to complete tasks such as inventory and staff scheduling.

Tommy’s rehabilitation was difficult, requiring him to continue with physical therapy and occupational therapy to regain his dexterity.

David was thrilled when Tommy’s cast was removed ten weeks later, but couldn’t understand the invisible disability/ nerve damage, which still interfered with Tommy’s major life activities.  David expected the same performance from Tommy as if the arm was never injured.  Despite Tommy expressing his concern with HR and mentioned to David that he still needed the accommodation David still pressed for Tommy to work over his accommodation. Tommy even submitted updated paperwork from his doctor and therapist confirming his condition.  Nonetheless, David forced Tommy to work extra hours to complete tasks and started retaliation with last minute scheduling, surprise deliveries and unscheduled meetings.  Tommy was beside himself.  He was an excellent employee, who simply needed the accommodations that were supported by his doctor and required by the American’s with Disabilities Act.

David and his organization didn’t realize there are stiff fines for non-compliance with the American’s with Disabilities Act.

In the spring of 2014, the Department of Justice raised the fine for the initial violation from $55,000 to $75,000. 

The fines attached to the second violation and subsequent violations can rise to $150,000.  In short, each and every time David harassed Tommy; he was opening his employer to another costly fine.

Of late, perhaps in support of an aging population with more disabilities, and a population of returning veterans with disabilities, the Department of Justice, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, and the National Labor Relations Board have been particularly aggressive in protecting employees with disabilities.

For example, July 2, 2014, the EEOC announced the Walgreens would pay $180,000 in damages for dismissing a casher at “a South San Francisco Walgreens because of her disability after she ate a $1.39 bag of chips during a hypoglycemic attack in order to stabilize her blood sugar level. “ June 30, 2014 the EEOC announced that Princeton Health care will pay $1.35 million in a disability case.

Further, a recent update to the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 also includes an application of the Americans with Disabilities act.

“Pregnancy is not a justification for excluding women from jobs that they are qualified to perform, and it cannot be a basis for denying employment or treating women less favorably than co-workers similar in their ability or inability to work,” said EEOC Chair Jacqueline A. Berrien.

Employers and employees alike can visit the U.S. Equal Employment Commission website for their rights and responsibilities regarding supporting workers with disabilities. Visit www.eeoc.gov for guidance and press releases.

Read more posts by Leah Hollis, Ed.D. here. Leah is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire.


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