The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, the federal appellate court with jurisdiction over much of the western United States (including Washington, Oregon, California and Idaho), ruled last week that an employee’s temporary impairment can qualify as a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The Ninth Circuit’s decision resolves an important
*This article was originally published as a Legal Alert on December 17, 2020.
With the COVID-19 vaccine becoming available to some and just around the corner for others, the question on many employers’ (and employees’) minds is whether they can (or should) mandate employees be vaccinated as a condition of employment. The Equal Employment Opportunity…
The legal landscape continues to shift rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic. As we reported here and here, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) guidance allows employers to require employee temperature checks, as well as worker testing aimed at detecting COVID-19, even though such testing by an employer would ordinarily raise issues under the Americans with…
We have been counseling employers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and have encountered several common scenarios. Many of the most frequently asked questions are addressed in our Employer FAQs. This post provides additional information on the interaction between various pandemic-related issues and the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
- An employee known to be suffering from
For at least the next two months, Washington employers are required to take extra measures to accommodate employees characterized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to be at higher than normal risk of severe illness or death if they contract COVID-19. On April 13, Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 20-46, “High-Risk Employees – Workers’ Rights,” prohibiting all Washington employers, both public and private, from failing to provide accommodations to high-risk workers, defined by the CDC as:
- Employees age 65 or older
- Employees with serious underlying health conditions, including:
- Moderate to severe asthma
- Heart disease
- Lung disease
- Chronic kidney disease, undergoing dialysis
- Liver disease
- Severe obesity
- A condition that renders the employee immunocompromised, such as HIV or cancer treatment.
Employees in the above high-risk categories are now afforded additional accommodation rights under the Governor’s Proclamation. Between now and June 12 (subject to extension by the Governor), you must take the following steps if you are a Washington employer:
Continue Reading Washington Governor Mandates That Employers Accommodate Employees at High Risk of Contracting COVID-19
As employers continue to react to and prepare for workplace challenges due to the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak around the country, the EEOC has updated some of its guidance on the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Rehabilitation Act. The EEOC addresses situations such as whether employer can require that employees showing symptoms…
On Tuesday, August 20, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a case entitled Murray v. Mayo Clinic, joined four other Circuit Courts of Appeal in holding that a “but for” causation standard applies in ADA discrimination claims. This standard is considered to make it more difficult for employees to prove discrimination claims than…
The Ninth Circuit released a precedent-setting Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) decision yesterday, and it’s a big win for employers. The Court held that an employee who makes “serious and credible threats of violence toward his co-workers” is not a “qualified individual with a disability” and therefore cannot state a claim under the ADA or Oregon disability law. Karen O’Connor, Brenda Baumgart and Andrea Thompson from Stoel Rives represented the employer in this case, Mayo v. PCC Structurals, Inc., and a link to the Court’s decision is here.
Plaintiff’s Stress Leads to Death Threats in the Workplace
Plaintiff was a long-term welder at an industrial facility. Despite a 1999 diagnosis of major depressive disorder, he worked without significant issue for decades. In 2010, plaintiff and a few co-workers claimed a supervisor bullied them at work. Shortly after a meeting among plaintiff, a co-worker and the company’s HR director to discuss the supervisor, plaintiff began making threatening comments. He told a co-worker that he “felt like coming down to [the facility] with a shotgun and blowing off” the heads of his supervisor and a different manager. Among other comments, he also told other co-workers that he planned to come to the facility during the day shift “to take out management” and that he “wanted to bring a gun down to [the facility] and start shooting people.”Continue Reading The Ninth Circuit Joins Its Sister Circuits in Ruling That an Employee Who Threatens Co-Workers with Violence Is Not “Qualified” Under the ADA
The U.S. Supreme Court handed a defeat to United Parcel Service (UPS) this week. At issue was whether UPS violated the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) by requiring a pregnant woman with lifting restrictions to go on leave during her pregnancy, while workers in certain other categories (such as those with on-the-job injuries) were allowed light duty. We consider the ruling and the lessons it holds for employer leave and accommodation policies below.
In a decision announced March 25, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the district court, which had dismissed Young v. UPS (PDF) on summary judgment, must proceed to trial on the question of whether intentional discrimination occurred when a pregnant UPS employee was treated less favorably than others in similar situations.
The Court ruled in Young that under the PDA an employee can make a prima facie case of discrimination by showing that she was denied accommodation, while other sick or disabled workers with a similar inability to work were allowed accommodation. The employer then must show that it had a legitimate non-discriminatory reason for the difference in treatment to avoid liability, and if it makes such a showing the plaintiff can rebut the showing through evidence of pretext.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Sends UPS Pregnancy Accommodation Case to Trial
Employers like separation agreements. Separation agreements, of course, are contracts that employees sign when their employment is terminated that allows them to be paid severance and in exchange they usually give up the right to sue their employer. Separation agreements provide finality to employment terminations by offering employers protection from claims and potential claims. The agreements many employers use are often standardized and have served them well for years. But now might be the time to take another look at those documents, lest the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) looks first.
Recently, the EEOC has aggressively asserted its (re)interpretation of the law regarding the enforceability of separation (severance) agreements, suing several companies for using what it perceived to be overly broad agreements. See, EEOC v. CVS Pharmacy, Inc. no. 1:14-cv-00863 (N.D. Ill. 2014); see also, EEOC v. CollegeAmerica Denver, Inc., no. 14-cv-01232-LTB (E.D. Co. 2014). The EEOC doesn’t like separation agreements that do not make it sufficiently clear (in the EEOC’s opinion) that employees do not waive the right to file charges with the EEOC or participate in agency investigations, even though the employee can waive claims for damages under the statutes the EEOC enforces like Title VII or the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). In the CVS Pharmacy and CollegeAmerica cases, the EEOC alleged the employers’ separation agreement forms constituted a “pattern or practice” of denying employees their statutory rights. (“Pattern or practice” is significant because such cases can carry much higher penalties than a run-of-the-mill lawsuit; they can also inspire class-action lawyers to start snooping around.)Continue Reading EEOC’s Tough Stance on Employee Separation Agreements