Disability discrimination laws, and employment laws in general, apply to employers and employment agencies alike. This important lesson will probably remain branded in a local temp agency's psyche, even if they are going out of business.
According to a press release from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, a big lawsuit over a little seizure is going to cost JES Personnel Consultants, Inc., also known as Genie Temporary Service, $80,000. JES placed an epileptic employee with Clover Technologies Group, LLC, where he would unpack and sort ink cartridges. On his first day, he suffered a brief epileptic seizure. Though he was allowed to finish out his shift, Clover requested a doctor's note before he returned to work.
Fair enough, right? However, when the requested note was provided the next day to JES Personnel, they apparently never forwarded it to Clover. They also never brought the employee back, nor did they provide him any further work.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits exactly this sort of behavior. Whether JES was worried about the employee's health, its own reputation with client companies, or any other motivation it may have had not to bring the medically-cleared employee back to work, it cannot discriminate against an employee that can fulfill the essential functions of the job. Once he was medically cleared, JES had a responsibility to treat him as any other employee and to make any reasonable accommodations that were necessary for his disability.
Though JES Personnel Consultants (and by extension, Genie Temporary Staffing) is apparently closing up shop, they did sign an agreement covering any future forays into employment staffing businesses. The agreement provides that the owners of JES will:
- Adopt an ADA-compliant policy for disabled workers;
- Establish a procedure for these workers to request accommodations;
- If an employee returns from medical leave, JES will only request a medical exam if it is job-related and consistent with business necessity;
- If a doctor's authorization is provided, and JES determines that the note is inadequate, it will advise the employee of the reasons for its decision.
For the rest of you employers, this is a pretty good set of guidelines to follow when drafting your own internal policies.
- Consult a Chicago Employment Attorney (FindLaw)
- Employee Rights: Disability Discrimination (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- The Employer's Duty to Accommodate (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
- United Road Towing Finally Settles Disability Discrimination Suit (FindLaw's Chicago Employment Law Blog)