March Madness presents one of those occasions where your employees’ diets and exercise may fall by the wayside, and by the wayside, we mean potentially off a cliff. And when this happens, your workforce is increasing not just their weight and risk of disease, but it may also increase your cost to employ them. The productivity time you’re losing when they stop working to watch the games is nothing compared to the loss of productivity and increased health care costs due to poor health.
Last month, a California state appellate court issued a decision that, as the dissent characterized, went “where no one has gone before.” In Castro-Ramirez v. Dependable Highway Express, Inc., the court held that California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) – California’s anti-discrimination law – requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation to a nondisabled employee who associates with a disabled person. This troubling and broad interpretation of the law, which effectively would import a caregiver accommodation requirement into the law, has certainly captured the attention of employers even outside this jurisdiction.
As a recent federal appellate decision confirmed, the Americans with Disabilities Act does not require employers to always accommodate a disabled employee. Instead, it is the employee’s burden to first show that he or she can perform the essential functions of the job with said accommodation. Alternatively, if the employee cannot perform the essential functions of the job, he or she may seek, as a reasonable accommodation, a reassignment to a vacant position as long as the employee is qualified for that position. In both cases, the employer is relieved of the accommodation requirement if it can show an undue hardship would result. It was these essential function and vacancy issues that were the focus of the First Circuit’s opinion in Lang v. Wal-Mart Stores.
Over the course of a career many workers experience the displeasure of dealing with a difficult supervisor — the type of individual whose mere presence in the workplace is a source of dread and whose name inspires feelings of fear and loathing whenever it appears on a subordinate’s caller ID or the sender line of an email. But according to the California Court of Appeals, the apprehension this situation engenders does not qualify as a disability and does not give rise to a cause of action under California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act.
I still consider Groundhog Day not only a great comedy, but also a great movie. Twenty-two years ago, the late Harold Ramis graced us with a tale about Phil Connors, a Pittsburgh TV weatherman, who finds himself repeating the same day over and over while on assignment covering Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. (Spoiler alert) Connors, played by fan-favorite Bill Murray, escapes the time loop only after figuring out that the key to freedom lies with self-improvement and acts of kindness.
As the actual Groundhog Day neared this year, I thought about this movie and how sometimes I feel like I am in it when it comes to addressing certain employment law issues.
I was quoted in a SHRM Online article entitled Measles Outbreak Raises Compliance Questions, in which I respond to common HR questions employers may have in the wake of the measles outbreak.
If it can happen in the “Happiest Place on Earth”, then why can’t it happen at my office? That is a question many employers are asking themselves after a recent multi-state measles outbreak was linked to Disneyland in California.
Combined with the Ebola scare that saturated the 24-hour news cycle last fall and another nasty flu season in full swing, issues related to preventing the spread of infectious diseases in the workplace have started to gain increasing attention among HR departments across the nation. And in particular, with highly infectious diseases like measles and the flu, some employers are wondering whether employee-required vaccinations are the answer.
But whether you can require your employees to be vaccinated and whether you should are two different questions. In this article for bizjournals.com, I briefly explore both these questions. Read the rest of the article here.
A California Federal court recently permitted a disability discrimination claim to proceed to a jury trial in a lawsuit alleging that Walgreens unlawfully terminated a diabetic employee for violating its “anti-grazing” policy by eating potato chips on the job without first paying for them. In EEOC v. Walgreen Co., the court refused to toss the EEOC’s claim it brought on behalf of the employee because of a factual dispute as to whether “business necessity” required Walgreens to treat the employee the same as other workers who violated its anti-grazing policy.
Continue Reading Wait, Now I Can’t Fire My Employees For Stealing? California Federal Court Holds Application of Anti-Grazing Policy to Diabetic Employee May Violate the Americans With Disabilities Act
Written by Michael Arnold
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – the agency responsible for enforcing most of the federal discrimination laws – is preparing to issue new guidance addressing an employer’s obligation to reasonably accommodate pregnant workers. Will the guidance offer a new interpretation of the law or just cement what we already know?
Continue Reading EEOC Will Release Enforcement Guidance Addressing an Employer’s Obligation to Reasonably Accommodate Pregnant Workers; Employers Should Continue to Pay Careful Attention to These Accommodation Requests
Written by David Katz
Yet another federal court judge, the Honorable Stephen N. Limbaugh, Jr. of the Eastern District of Missouri, recently ruled, in Whittaker v. America’s Car-Mart, Inc., that an employee’s severe obesity could constitute a “disability” under the Americans with Disabilities Act.