Disability Discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has initiated a lawsuit against a McDonald’s franchise for violating the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). A former employee was terminated in February of 2015, seemingly due to his disability – being HIV positive. His termination came only days after management became aware of his condition, though he had been hired in November 2014.

The complaint against Mathews Management Co./Peach Orchard Inc. details one undeniable violation of the ADA, as the franchise required employees to disclose all of their prescribed medications to management. This policy is actually listed in the company’s employee handbook, but no information has been released as to how or when employees are required to disclose. Through such disclosure, management became aware that the “aggrieved party” is HIV positive.

About a week before his termination, the employee was questioned by his shift leader regarding his HIV status. At this time, the supervisor warned the plaintiff that he may be fired, because another female employee was previously terminated due to being HIV positive [Disability Discrimination]. At a different meeting with the general manager, the employee faced questioning about his relationship with a co-worker. The employee admitted they had an “interest” in their co-worker, and also had he had confided his HIV positive status to them. It was at this meeting that the employee was terminated, supposedly due to “attendance issues”. The plaintiff and his council maintain that other employees with far worse attendance records continue to work without consequence.

The Americans with Disabilities Act became law in 1990, and seeks to protect employees from Disability Discrimination. Under federal rule, a disability is defined as “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities of such individual”. HIV positive status is protected under the ADA, both symptomatic and asymptomatic. Not only would it protect those with a disability, it also extends protection to those associated with someone having a disability. For example, if employment was denied to an applicant because their partner has AIDS/HIV. Additionally, a “presumed” disability would not be an acceptable reason for termination/denial of employment.

There are some stipulations for ADA coverage to be applicable to an employee. First, the business must be a private entity employing 15 or more people. Moreover, the employee must be able to complete the “essential functions” of the job, with or without “reasonable accommodation”. Alleviation of the “essential functions” would not be considered a “reasonable accommodation. The ADA describes an essential job function as “Essential functions of the job are those core duties that are the reason the job position exists. For example, an essential function of a typist’s position is the ability to type; an essential function of a bus driver s position is the ability to drive. Requiring the ability to perform “essential” functions assures that an individual with a disability will not be considered unqualified because of his or her inability to perform marginal or incidental job functions”.

Regarding what a reasonable accommodation includes, the law states, “A ‘reasonable accommodation’ is any modification or adjustment to a job, the job application process, or the work environment that will enable a qualified applicant or employee with a disability to perform the essential functions of the job, participate in the application process, or enjoy the benefits and privileges of employment. Examples of ‘reasonable accommodations’ include: making existing facilities readily accessible to and usable by employees with disabilities; restructuring a job; modifying work schedules; acquiring or modifying equipment; and reassigning a current employee to a vacant position for which the individual is qualified”.

Finally, an employer is not required to make a certain reasonable accommodation if the accommodation would place an “undue hardship” upon the business and its operations. Generally, the larger the company, the less chance there is that an employee’s absence or accommodations will place an undue hardship upon the company as there will be more resources available to support the change. Finally, it is the responsibility of the employee to notify the employer that they need accommodations in order to perform their job successfully. An employer cannot be held responsible for conditions they were not aware of.

Events like the ones the former McDonald’s employee was forced to endure are what the ADA seeks to prevent. The good news is, the employee took appropriate action by retaining an attorney to fight their case. If you have experienced a similar situation, or feel like you may have been terminated due to your disability, please contact our firm as soon as possible for a confidential no obligation case evaluation. Injustices shouldn’t go without consequence. For all Disability Discrimination inquires contact us at aegislawfirm.com, an award winning law firm representing employees only.