Not accommodating a disabled employee may reflect discrimination

Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation when a disabled employee requests one. As noted by the U.S. Department of Labor, a modification can improve overall productivity. It also creates equal opportunities for employees and job applicants.

Federal law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees with disabilities. When requesting an adjustment, disabled employees have a right to receive reasonable accommodation.

Reasonable accommodations vs. unlawful actions

Examples of reasonable accommodations may include installing software for clearer communications or adding enhanced lighting to a workstation. An employer may also modify a work schedule so that an employee can treat a medical condition.

If an employer cannot make a reasonable adjustment, reassigning an employee to a different position may bring about the required modification. Employees who believe they have been unlawfully harassed, demoted or terminated due to a disability may initiate legal action against an employer.

An employee’s lawsuit and the employer’s penalties

As reported by USA Today, a nationwide retailer reassigned an employee with Down syndrome to a new work schedule that included longer hours. According to the legal action filed against the employer, the retailer refused her request to return to her previous schedule so she could manage her disability. The retailer also terminated her employment for attendance issues that began during the new schedule. The employee received consistently positive performance reviews prior to the schedule change.

The jury decided that the retailer failed to grant her request for an accommodation and then terminated the employee because of her disability. The jury also ordered the company to pay the terminated employee both compensatory and punitive damages.

Employers that violate the Americans with Disabilities Act may face jury award payments that include extensive punitive damages. Actionable violations of the ADA include disability-based terminations or refusals to grant a reasonable accommodation.