Author: Stephen D. Hans
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against employees with disabilities and requires that employers make reasonable accommodations for disabled workers. Deciding whether your accommodations are reasonable and whether you can terminate an employee who cannot fulfill the job description are matters you should address with an employment law attorney.
Within the past year, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has pursued a number of disability discrimination lawsuits. A case in point was a lawsuit brought by the EEOC against Beverage Distributors Company (BDC), a company located in Denver, Colorado.
Mike Sungala, a legally blind BDC employee had worked more than four years as a driver’s helper. The company eliminated the driver’s helper position because it decided to use contract laborers instead. Sungala subsequently applied for a night warehouse loader position, which consisted of loading kegs and cases of liquor onto trucks. The company offered him the position but required a medical examination prior to finalizing their decision to place him in that position. Subsequent to the medical examination the company withdrew the job offer, stating Sungala would be unable to do the work because of impaired eyesight. The EEOC argued Sungala could perform this work and filed a lawsuit on his behalf. The court found that BDC failed to prove there were no available comparable jobs Sungala was capable of performing and awarded him the following:
- His entire back pay
- Interest on the award (approximately $200,000)
- Compensation for tax consequences Sungala will suffer due to receiving the judgment payment within one year
- The same seniority and salary as a night warehouse loader holding this position for five years
Because BDC testimonies indicated a lack of knowledge of the ADA and because the company’s employee handbook failed to address ADA issues, the court ordered the company to obtain an outside consultant. The consultant must provide employee ADA training and assistance with revising company policies, job postings, notice posting and other compliance. The company has six months to comply with this court order.
You can avoid employee disputes by working closely with an experienced New York employment litigation attorney. Stephen Hans & Associates has assisted business clients in the Long Island City and New York area for more than 30 years.