Some years ago, an employment discrimination attorney on the other side of the country said, after analyzing a court ruling in his state, that the key point employers should take away from the decision was, essentially, “don’t be a schmuck,” (only he didn’t say “schmuck.”) Today, too many employers are making the lives of some workers with disabilities needlessly difficult — as well as violating the law — because they didn’t heed this lawyer’s wise advice when came to approving disability accommodations. If you’re a person with disabilities here in Georgia and your employer has engaged in similar conduct toward you, they may have violated the Americans With Disabilities Act, so you definitely should make the effort to contact an experienced Atlanta disability discrimination lawyer to talk about your situation.
A federal disability discrimination case that was recently settled seems like it may have been one of these times. The employee, S.M., worked for a large health insurance employer in Atlanta. The building where the woman worked had multiple entrances but, generally, employees were required to pass through revolving doors to enter the building.
S.M., however, had significant claustrophobia, and passing through a revolving door was exceedingly problematic for her. Based on her condition, the woman sought a workplace accommodation, which was to use a non-revolving door. S.M. provided the employer with a letter from her doctor stating her need for the accommodation and, though the court did not delve into the details of the building’s entrances, hers would seem like a modest accommodation request.
The employer, however, balked. The employer contended that the doctor’s letter did not contain enough details and demanded more information. Almost six months after the employee made her initial accommodation request, the employer finally green-lit the accommodation.
This delay constituted a potential ADA violation, according to the trial judge, who denied the employer’s motion for summary judgment. The court pointed out that one of the fundamental obligations employers have under the ADA is to make “existing facilities used by employees readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.”
ADA Accommodations are About Equality in the Workplace, Not Just Facilitating Work
In ruling for the employee, the trial court expressly rejected the employer’s argument that, before an employer has a legal obligation under the ADA to grant an accommodation to an employee with disabilities, that employee must first show a connection between the accommodation requested and one or more of the worker’s essential job functions. The ADA, the court noted, contains no language requiring that an employee’s request tie the accommodation to the essential functions of the worker’s job. The ADA’s accommodation obligation exists not simply to facilitate a worker’s completion of their duties; it exists to ensure that workers with disabilities “enjoy equal benefits and privileges of employment” as their non-disabled colleagues.
The court made that ruling back in August. This month, the employer agreed to settle the case. The terms of the settlement included the employer paying $130,000 to S.M.
While the court did not detail all the minutia of the employer’s disability accommodation process, the case potentially seems to portray an employer that made things unnecessarily difficult for this worker and, as a result, paid a price for it. If you’ve sought a disability accommodation and your employer has wrongfully denied it or failed to be appropriately forthcoming in approving the request, they’re not only hassling you, they may also be in violation of the ADA. The Atlanta disability discrimination attorneys at the law firm of Parks, Chesin & Walbert are here to help. Our firm has helped many workers with disabilities to advocate for their rights successfully, and we’re eager to help you. Contact us through this website or at 404-873-8048 to schedule a consultation.