The EEOC is heralding a recent decision from the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, Equal Opportunity Employment Commission v. Ford Motor Co., a case in which the agency brought suit on behalf of a Ford employee who alleged she was terminated in retaliation for filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC. In her charge, the employee alleged Ford violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) by not allowing her to telecommute to work. The district court granted Ford’s motion for summary judgment, but, in a 2-to-1 decision, the Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that the EEOC had presented evidence sufficient to survive summary judgment that (a) by requesting to telecommute the employee had sought a reasonable accommodation for her disability and (b) the alternative accommodations offered by the company were insufficient. Of concern to employers is the little weight given by the majority opinion to the employer’s business judgment that the employee’s presence in the workplace was an essential function of her job.
On October 2, 2013, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed into law Int. No. 974-2012A, amending the New York City Human Rights Law (NYCHRL) to prohibit discrimination in employment based on pregnancy, childbirth or a related medical condition. The law goes into effect on January 30, 2014. It prohibits an employer from refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to the needs of an employee for her pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition that will allow the employee to perform the essential requisites of the job. According to the New York City Council’s legislative findings accompanying the amendment, reasonable accommodations for an employee’s pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical condition may include “bathroom breaks, leave for a period of disability arising from childbirth, breaks to facilitate increased water intake, periodic rest for those who stand for long periods of time, and assistance with manual labor.”
A Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) plaintiff’s leave was proven fraudulent through her Facebook postings, resulting in summary judgment for her employer, dismissing her complaint. The Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan concluded that the employer’s reason for her termination was legitimate and unrelated to her exercise of FMLA rights.
Pregnant employees who seek accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) need not be offered special treatment, the Fourth Circuit ruled on January 9, 2013. The ADA prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals “on the basis of disability.” The PDA, enacted in 1978, amended Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to specifically prohibit discrimination in employment “because of or on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions.”
The New Jersey Appellate Division Holds that Requiring Self-Declared Alcoholics to Abstain From Alcohol Use and to Submit to Alcohol Testing Constitutes Handicap Discrimination in Employment
In a recent decision, A.D.P. v. ExxonMobil Research and Engineering Company, the New Jersey Appellate Division held that an employer’s drug and alcohol policy requiring recovering alcoholics to submit to periodic testing to determine whether they have used alcohol since returning to work after undergoing rehabilitation constitutes handicap discrimination in violation of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1 (the “LAD”). The decision presumably applies as well to recovering drug addicts. Employers with alcohol and drug policies should immediately evaluate and, if necessary, modify them in light of the Court’s decision.
EEOC v. United Airlines, Part II — Denying a Disabled Employee’s Request to Fill a Vacant Position as an Accommodation Because More Qualified Candidates are Available Remains Problematic Under the ADA
Four months ago we reported on the decision of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit upholding United Airlines’ position in a lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that United did not violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by its policy of filling vacant positions with the most qualified candidate even though another employee, unable to perform his own job because of a disability, had applied for the vacant position as a reasonable accommodation. The three-judge panel of the Seventh Circuit that issued that decision has now vacated its opinion and has decided the case in favor of the EEOC. The panel’s reversal of its position is not that surprising. The panel originally ruled in favor of United because it felt bound by a Seventh Circuit ruling in a similar case decided in 2000, EEOC v. Humiston-Keeling. The panel, however, questioned that earlier decision in light of the Supreme Court’s 2002 decision in US Airways, Inc. v. Barnett and thus recommended that the issue be considered by the court en banc (i.e. by the entire membership of the Seventh Circuit). The EEOC promptly moved for reconsideration en banc. Each member of the court expressed the view that EEOC v. Humiston-Keeling should be overruled and, in lieu of formally rehearing the case en banc, simply directed the original panel to vacate its decision and issue a new opinion.
The Gibbons Employment & Labor Department, and three of its attorneys, were among the 10 Gibbons practice areas and 20 individual attorneys ranked in the 2012 edition of the Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business. Chambers annually rates the nation’s leading business lawyers and law firms through comprehensive interviews with top companies, attorneys, and business executives, plus extensive supplementary research.
Denying a Disabled Employee’s Request to Fill a Vacant Position as an Accommodation Because More Qualified Candidates are Available Remains Problematic Under the ADA
Are employers obligated, as a reasonable accommodation, to fill a vacant position with an employee whose disability renders him unable to perform his own job when other candidates for the vacant position are more qualified? The position of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) that employers have that obligation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was recently rejected by a three-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. But the panel took the unusual step of recommending that the issue be considered by the court en banc (i.e. by the entire membership of the Seventh Circuit). In the great majority of circuits, the issue remains unsettled, and employers must tread carefully when responding to such accommodation requests.
Joining a growing number of jurisdictions, including the Third and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, covering the states of New York, Connecticut and Vermont, has held that under certain circumstances, an employer may be required to assist disabled employees with their commute to work as a reasonable accommodation under both the Americans with Disabilities Act(“ADA”) and the Rehabilitation Act. The Court’s decision in Nixon-Tinkelman v. N.Y. Dep’t of Health & Mental Hygiene highlights an employer’s obligation to consider reasonable accommodations requested by employees with disability-related commuting problems.
The 2011 edition of the Chambers USA Guide to America’s Leading Lawyers for Business features 10 Gibbons practice areas and 18 individual attorneys ranked in the top tiers. The firm’s Employment and Labor Law Department and two of its attorneys in this area were ranked among the leaders in the state. Chambers annually rates the nation’s leading business lawyers and law firms through comprehensive interviews with top companies, attorneys, and business executives, plus extensive supplementary research.