Long gone are the days where individuals required computer access in order to connect to the internet. Smartphones are everywhere, and the internet of things (IoT) means that common objects such as cars and phones can now easily connect to the internet to send and receive data. Unsurprisingly, it feels like most people have access to text messages and emails 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Although a convenience when dealing with emergencies or staying in touch with family and friends, constant connectivity can create a tricky situation for employers. Continue reading this entry
Most employers are aware of their obligation to explore reasonable disability accommodations when an employee asks for such a measure. But, what if the employee never asks? A new decision out of the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit raises the concerning possibility that an employer could indeed be held liable for failing to provide a disability accommodation even if the employee never requested one.
In that case, a respiratory therapist at a North Dakota hospital took a leave of absence to undergo spinal surgery. After the surgery, she returned to her job with lifting and work hours restrictions. Not long after her return, the hospital reminded employees of the need to complete a CPR certification test. The respiratory therapist took and passed the written portion of the test, but notified her employer that she could not complete the physical portion until cleared by her physician. Because CPR certification was an essential function of the respiratory therapist position, the hospital terminated her employment.
The employee sued under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), claiming that the hospital should have allowed her additional time to obtain CPR certification, or transferred her to another position that did not require this certification. In response, the employer noted that the respiratory therapist never requested any such accommodations.
The court sided with the employee, determining that a jury could reasonably conclude that she had sufficiently “made her employer aware of the need for an accommodation” – even if she did not actually request one – when she informed the hospital of her surgery and resulting limitations. The court reasoned that an employee is not required to “invoke the magic words ‘reasonable accommodation’” to trigger the employer’s obligation to explore the need for a reasonable accommodation through the interactive process.
ADA issues present many challenges and employers should always be alert and review ADA best practices. Following this case, an employer should not simply wait for an accommodation request. Rather, an employer should begin the interactive process as soon as it learns that the employee has a physical or psychological condition that may be impacting his or her job performance. This has always been a best practice, but is now backed up by the threat of possible ADA liability if not followed. Determining whether a particular situation raises the need to engage in the interactive process can be tricky, and employers are well advised to seek legal counsel when unsure of whether they may have duties to accommodate.
Just when employers were becoming more comfortable with the complex and lengthy Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification that was issued in 2013, the federal government has decided to turn up the heat. First, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Department of Justice recently increased the penalties for I-9 violations. Second, DHS has announced that it will soon issue a new version of the Form I-9. These actions bring significant changes for employers. Continue reading this entry
We have reported time and time again on the national trend of mandating paid sick leave for workers. As we noted last March, in a 2015 Executive Order, President Obama directed the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) to issue regulations requiring federal contractors to provide paid sick leave to their employees. The DOL issued a final rule on September 29, 2016, which will mandate up to seven days of paid sick leave for covered workers. Continue reading this entry
Over the next few weeks, millions of Americans will cast their votes, concluding what has been a particularly contentious election cycle. Until then, as Election Day approaches and employees’ political passions continue to rise, employers should be mindful of their rights and obligations when it comes to voting and politics in the workplace. Continue reading this entry