A recent decision from the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reminds employers of their affirmative duty to engage in an interactive process once an employee raises a medical condition and requests some change to their work environment to accommodate it. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and the Rehabilitation Act at issue in Harden v. Social
At long last the EEOC has issued its final regulations for the Americans With Disabilities Amendments Act. In so doing, the EEOC has taken Congress’ words contained in the Act and declared (repeatedly) that the definition of “disability” is to be read very broadly and that employers should instead focus on whether discrimination has occurred…
Yesterday the Oregon Supreme Court conclusively ruled that employers are not required to accommodate the use of medical marijuana in the workplace, ending years of doubt and confusion on this critical issue. Click here to read the Court’s opinion in Emerald Steel Fabricators, Inc. v. Bureau of Labor and Industries.
In Emerald Steel…
Wow, it’s Festivus already, which means that in just a few short days it will be a brand new year! We have a Festivus present for Oregon employers to help you get ready: Ten things you need to know for 2010! (click on each blue hotlink for more information)
- All Oregon employers are required to post the SB
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries has filed several proposed rules pertaining to labor and employment law, and is inviting public comment. Click on the title of each to read the proposed rule:
- Religious worship, child support obligors, physical accommodations for eligible disabilities. The proposed rules would implement statutes:
- requiring employers to reasonably
The Oregon Legislature was in session in 2009, and many labor and employment-related bills came up for consideration. A complete list of the bills that passed and the bills that failed follows below (you may have to click "continue reading."
Several passed and will become law effective January 1, 2010. Several others didn’t get the support they needed to become law, but employers may want to take note as they may gain more traction in the next legislative session.
Notable winners: leave for military spouses, a ban on "captive audience" union meetings, and protections for stalking victims. Notable losers: several attempts to clarify an employer’s obligation to accommodate medical marijuana use.
Up next: a federal labor and employment legislation update. Stay tuned!Continue Reading 2009 Oregon Legislative Update
On Thursday, in Herbert v. Altimeter, the Oregon Court of Appeals held that an employee does not need to actually be disabled in order to be protected from retaliation for requesting an accommodation under Oregon’s disability anti-discrimination law. The case serves as a useful reminder that anti-retaliation protections, like those in the Oregon disability law, can be very broadly applied and protect many types of employee requests or complaints. Employers should be careful when disciplining or terminating any employee who has recently made some kind of arguably protected request or complaint.
Sherrie Herbert was terminated from her truck-driving job with Altimeter shortly after she became ill, allegedly from exhaust fumes in the cab of her truck, and she reported those problems to her boss. She sued under various retaliation theories, including that she was terminated in retaliation for her having requested an accommodation for a disability (i.e., requesting to be reassigned to a different truck). The trial court granted a directed verdict for Altimeter at the close of Herbert’s case at trial and dismissed all claims.
The Court of Appeals reversed. Altimeter argued that it couldn’t have retaliated against plaintiff for requesting an accommodation as a matter of law, because she was not disabled and therefore not protected under the Oregon disability law’s anti-retaliation provisions. The court rejected that argument, noting that while the law requires Oregon employers to provide a reasonable accommodation to a “person with a disability,” the anti-retaliation provision, ORS 659A.109, protects any “worker” who requests an accommodation. So, the court reasoned, by its plain terms the statute protects a broader class of employees (all of them) who make protected requests for accommodations, even though those employees may not be entitled to an actual accommodation.
The opinion also contained an illustrative reminder about the importance of well-drafted written responses filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”), the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (“BOLI”), and similar agencies. Those written position statements are admissible later; if they’re not carefully drafted they could come back to bite the complainant. In Herbert, Altimeter’s BOLI position statement included several damaging admissions, the worst of which essentially stated that she was terminated because she insisted she be reassigned to another truck, i.e., requested an accommodation. Despite a general lack of other evidence of retaliation presented by Herbert at trial, the Court held that Altimeter’s admission in the BOLI statement alone was enough to allow that claim to go to a jury.
Oops! While there are no easy, hard-and-fast rules about how to draft effective BOLI or EEOC position statements, generally you want to say as little as possible while still making your case, and above all, you don’t want to provide the only evidence a plaintiff will need to take his or her case all the way to a jury!! Those kinds of careless statements early on can make litigating employment discrimination lawsuits very expensive for employers, because they become much harder to get dismissed before trial.Continue Reading Oregon Court Of Appeals Holds Non-Disabled Employees Are Protected When Requesting Accommodations
The Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy today launched a new website that may be of use to employers seeking information on how to accommodate a disabled worker. At www.disability.gov an employer can research the applicable law and regulations, get ideas for appropriate reasonable accommodations, and locate additional resources. For example, clicking here will…
Last week Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski signed Senate Bill 786, which will require employers to more extensively accommodate employees’ religious practices and observation. The bill passed both the Oregon House and Senate by wide margins earlier this Spring. The new law will take effect January 1, 2010.
Oregon law already prohibits discrimination based on an employee’s religion. Senate…
According to a recent Americans with Disabilities Act case from the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, a failure to accommodate an employee’s disability may result in a constructive discharge and expose the employer to the same kind of liability it would face had it terminated an employee because of a disability.