Workplace discrimination is often masked by superficially non-discriminatory employment policies. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and New York State laws require employers to make “reasonable accommodation” for disabled employees. But some employers may try to circumvent these rules by adopting rigid, inflexible medical leave policies in an attempt to get rid of legally protected disabled employees.
Employer Allegedly Refused to Let Employees Wear Medical Boots
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which oversees enforcement of federal anti-discrimination laws, has recently made identifying and stopping such leave policies one of its “national priorities.” In fact, the EEOC recently filed a lawsuit in Manhattan federal court against a Buffalo-based bank that allegedly forced employees with medical conditions to take “involuntary leave” rather than make reasonable accommodation as required by law.
According to the EEOC's complaint, the bank allegedly required all employees with “potential disabilities” to go on leave until a “physician provided a full release with no restrictions.” For example, the EEOC said one former bank teller needed to wear a special walking boot while at work due to her tendinitis and bone spurs. The bank allegedly refused, citing its “no restrictions” policy. The EEOC identified at least two other bank tellers at other branches of the bank that required, but did not receive, similar accommodation.
As a result of the bank's inflexible policies, a disabled employee could be forced to remain on medical or disability leave for up to 26 weeks. The EEOC said disabled employees were “consistently discharged” once they reached the end of their leave–and “sometimes earlier”–unless they received medical clearance to work “without restrictions.” All of these actions violated the ADA, according to the EEOC, which not only requires employers to make reasonable accommodations, but also prohibits firing or retaliating against an employee who requests such an accommodation.
The EEOC's lawsuit seeks a permanent injunction against the bank to prohibit future illegal disability discrimination and pay unspecified compensatory and punitive damages to employees who were affected by “unlawful employment practices.”
Of course, a lawsuit is simply a statement of allegations and not a definitive finding of liability. The employer in this case was actually acquired by another bank, which has publicly said any illegal discrimination occurred prior to its takeover and that it remained “committed to an appropriate resolution of this issue.” The EEOC noted in its lawsuit that the current owner of the bank assumed all of its legal liabilities, and that it retained at least one executive from the former management team who was aware of the investigation and allegations.
Has Your Employer Refused to Accommodate Your Disability?
The law protects your right to earn a living despite a medical condition that might impose certain physical limitations. An employer cannot hide behind mandatory leave policies or require you to get a medical certification that is unrelated to your actual ability to do your job. If you have found yourself in such a situation, you need to speak with a qualified New York employment law attorney right away. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar in Long Island or New York City today if you have been the victim of any type of employment discrimination.