For the past year, Washington employers have been required to accommodate those employees characterized by the CDC as being at high risk of severe illness or death from COVID-19. Required accommodations can include allowing those employees to take extended leaves of absence if alternative work assignments, telework, remote work locations, or social distancing measures are
Utah Provides Additional Protections for Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women in the Workplace
The Utah Legislature has passed SB 59, which amends the Utah Antidiscrimination Act to provide additional protections for pregnant and breastfeeding women in the workplace.
This law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees upon request for conditions related to pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding, unless doing so would create an “undue hardship.” Employers are…
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 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.”…
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U.S. Supreme Court’s Decision in EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch: It’s All About the Motive
Stoel Rives Summer Associate Dexter Pearce co-authored this post.
In a case Justice Antonin Scalia described as “really easy,” the Supreme Court held that an employer can be liable for failing to accommodate a religious practice even if the employer lacks actual knowledge of a need for an accommodation. Writing for the 8-to-1 majority (Justice Thomas dissented), Scalia stressed that Title VII is concerned with motive, not knowledge. Thus, even if an employer has no more than an “unsubstantiated suspicion” of an applicant’s religious beliefs/practices, the employer violates Title VII if it’s action is motivated by a desire to avoid a potential accommodation.
Abercrombie employs a “Look Policy” that prohibits “caps.” Samantha Elauf, a practicing Muslim, applied for a retail sales position. Elauf wore a headscarf to her interview, but neither the headscarf nor religion were discussed. Heather Cooke, the assistant store manager and interviewer, identified Elauf as qualified for the position, but asked her store manager and the district manager about Elauf’s headscarf, noting that she believed Elauf wore her headscarf because of her faith. The district manager told Cooke that the headscarf would violate the Look Policy and instructed her not to hire Elauf.
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Supreme Court Sends UPS Pregnancy Accommodation Case to Trial
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.
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Court Rules That Telecommuting May Be a Reasonable Accommodation Under the ADA
The Sixth Circuit recently held in EEOC v. Ford Motor Co. that regular attendance may not mean physical presence in the workplace, and that telecommuting may be a reasonable accommodation for some employees with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA"). This case provides yet another cautionary tale for employers wrestling with complex ADA accommodation issues.
Irritable Bowel Syndrome Makes It Hard To Be At Work–Can Telecommuting Be The Answer?
Jane Harris had worked at Ford since 2003 as a resale buyer, acting as an intermediary to ensure there was no gap in steel supply to parts manufacturers. Although the job duties included such tasks as updating spreadsheets and making site visits, the main function of the job was group problem-solving, which required communication and collaboration with the resale team and others in the supply chain. Harris’ managers determined that such interactions were best handled face-to-face.
Harris suffered from irritable bowel syndrome, which caused fecal incontinence, and began taking intermittent FMLA leave when her symptoms flared up. Her job performance suffered after she began to take leave. Harris was unable to establish consistent working hours, and frequently made mistakes because she could not access suppliers while working nights and weekends. Her co-workers and manager were forced to pick up some of the slack. Eventually, in February 2009, she formally requested that she be permitted to telecommute on an as-needed basis to accommodate her disability. Although Ford had a policy permitting telecommuting up to four days a week, the policy also stated that such an arrangement was not appropriate for all positions or managers. However, some of Harris’ counterparts telecommuted one day a week.…
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FMLA Leave or ADA Accommodation (Or Both)? Overview of Beyond the Basics
After more than 20 years under the ADA and FMLA, and 18 years since the passage of the Oregon Family Leave Act (“OFLA”), most employers are familiar with the basics of these laws. Many employee leave situations can be handled in a basic and straightforward manner. Unfortunately, others involve an obscure application of a particular law, or the thorny challenges presented by the interplay of all three laws. (Unlike FMLA and OFLA, the ADA was not specifically enacted for the purpose of providing leave per se. In fact, EEOC Commissioner Chai Feldblum has referred to the ADA as “an inadvertent leave law.”)
This post gives an overview of specific practical tips to address some of the stickier leave situations that can arise. (Shameless self-promotional plug: these and other topics were covered in depth at a Stoel Rives Breakfast Briefing Seminar. For details on other Stoel Rives seminars and breakfast briefings, click here.)…
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Allergy to Perfume Not a Disability, Says Ohio Federal Court
Employers got some relief from a situation that is becoming more and more common: an employee that claims a scent allergy and wants a work accommodation. In Core v. Champaign County Board of County Commissioners, Case No. 3:11-cv-166 (S.D. Ohio Oct. 17, 2012), plaintiff claimed she was allergic to a particular scent that substantially limited her breathing and requested, as an accommodation, that her employer institute a policy requesting that all employees refrain from wearing scented products of any kind. The U.S. Court for the Southern District of Ohio threw the case out, concluding that (1) plaintiff was not disabled, as that term was used under the pre-2009 amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act; and (2) even if the broader post-2009 definition of “disability” were used, plaintiff’s requested accommodation was not reasonable.
Plaintiff worked for the Champaign County Department of Jobs and Family Services as a social service worker. Her job required her to conduct onsite inspections of childcare facilities, interact with the public and clients both onsite and offsite, and perform in-house client interviews, among other things. She claimed a disability because one particular scent she encountered occasionally in the workplace—Japanese Cherry Blossom—triggered asthma attacks, which substantially limited the major life activity of breathing. (She claimed reactions to other scents, too, but those reactions only included headaches and nausea, which the court found had no impact on plaintiff’s breathing or on any other major life activity.)…
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Washington Appeals Court Holds No Religious Accommodation Required Under WLAD
In Short v. Battle Ground School District, Division II of the Washington Court of Appeals held last week that Washington’s Law Against Discrimination, which makes it unlawful for employers to discharge employees because of creed, does not require employers to accommodate employees’ religious beliefs.
Julie Short, a devout Christian, was employed as an assistant…
9th Circuit: Attendance Is Essential Job Function For NICU Nurse Under ADA
This week the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals provided some help to employers seeking to balance the need to accommodate disabled employees with the need to enforce regular attendance policies. In Samper v. Providence St Vincent Medical Ctr, the Ninth Circuit held that the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) did not require an…