Judge: Indiana worker’s firing illustrates why ADA exists

Dive Brief:

  • The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana granted summary judgment to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission March 27 in a lawsuit the agency filed alleging Keystone RV Co. wrongfully terminated an employee with a disability for missing too much work in order to seek medical care. 
  • EEOC said the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act for not providing a reasonable accommodation to a front-end cap painter with a rare medical condition that caused him to get large and painful kidney stones that required surgery for removal. Keystone RV could not immediately be reached for comment.
  • In the opinion and order, the federal judge wrote, “This case illustrates one reason why the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) exists.”

Dive Insight:

The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against workers with disabilities on any aspect of employment, including firing, and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities.

“What the company should have done is engage the employee in an interactive dialogue to determine how much time he needed to return to work,” Eric Meyer, an employment lawyer and founding partner at Pierson Ferdinand LLP, told HR Dive. 

Instead, Keystone RV determined the worker’s absence was indefinite and fired him for violating the company’s attendance policy, per court documents.

Managers need to be trained to understand how disability-related absences differ from other absences and to loop in human resources in any termination discussions, Meyer said. 

“Managers need to at least be able to spot the issue,” he said.

Companies also don’t need to take an employee’s word about their need for medical leave; they can require documentation from a doctor, Meyer said.