Category: Disability Discrimination

Working from Home with a Disability: What You Need to Know

Work from Home Disability

Living with an illness and/or a disability can be a significant challenge. It can be even more challenging to work when you are disabled. This is especially true if you are attempting to work a conventional job when you are disabled. Depending on your specific situation, commuting to work, certain job tasks such as lifting or standing for long periods of time, or rigid work schedules may serve as obstacles. These are very likely obstacles that disabled individuals may never be able to overcome.

This is why working at home might be an appealing option for individuals with disabilities. It essentially gives those who are disabled the hope that they too can work, build a career and earn a livelihood despite their limitations. Working at home opens up a world of opportunities to those who are living with disabilities and chronic illnesses. At the same time, they could also pose a set of new and different challenges.

If you are living with a disability and are hoping to work from home, here are a few tips that might help you.

Knowing Your Limitations

When people initially begin working from home, it can be rather challenging to maintain a daily structure. Since you are working from home, it may be difficult to make that separation between work time and home time. This could lead to the person being up during the early hours of the morning when he or she should have gotten some rest and sleep. If you are suffering from a chronic illness, working at home could initially throw you off your medication or therapy schedule.

But, sleep deprivation and lack of adequate rest will likely catch up with you, making you less productive and efficient. This could hurt your income and your relationship with a remote employer or client, if you are an independent contractor. So, it is absolutely crucial that you recognize your limitations and build your work schedule around them.

Knowing What You Can Handle

This goes hand in hand with understanding your limitations. When you are working from home, it is important not to take on more than what you can reasonably do. Initially, when you begin working from home, you may be tempted to take on more than 40 or 50 hours of work each week. You may think that you will have that kind of time because you don’t have to commute, attend meetings or get dressed anymore.

But the work could add up very quickly and take up more time than you initially thought. Working past your limits could prove potentially damaging emotionally and could throw a wrench in your social life. It could cause other health symptoms to flare up. In addition, failing to deliver on projects could cost you the project, a client or even a job, and it could damage your reputation.

Overextending yourself can do even more damage to your body. For example, typing too much when you are suffering or arthritis or not following your sleep schedule could wreak havoc on your health and overall well being.

It is important that you set yourself up for success. Initially, take on only what you know you can complete. Add on to your workload gradually. This will not only keep you happy and healthy but also give your employers and clients the assurance that you are capable of handling the pressures of working from home.

Pay Attention to Self Care

If you have a disability or a chronic illness, you know what you need to do to care for yourself. This could mean sticking to your medication schedule. You might need to undergo physical therapy or continue to do exercises at home every day so you’re not losing strength and mobility. You will need to maintain your doctor’s appointments and sleep schedule. You may need to do a number of other things that affect your daily routine.

Just because you don’t have a conventional job, don’t skip any of these things you need to do to take care of yourself. In addition, take regular breaks, particularly if you are sitting down at your computer all day. Step outside for a walk, if possible, or at the very least, get up and stretch. Set your timer to remind you to get up and stretch. Breaks can help alleviate eye strain, and moving around regularly improves blood circulation.

When you feel overwhelmed, it’s a good idea to get a soothing cup of tea or do deep breathing exercises. Taking these steps to care for yourself can help you become more productive and effective at your job and prevent you from getting burned out.

The Job That’s Right For You

When you are faced with a disability or a chronic illness, it can be challenging to find a job that can accommodate your limitations. This can become simpler if you know what to expect and understand your limitations. For example, if you know you have to go to the doctor frequently or undergo physical therapy every day, then, you might only be able to handle a part-time job because of these daily interruptions.

If you have chronic pain or find that your energy levels vary each day, you may be able to do take on something deadline-based such as freelance writing projects. If your only limitation is mobility, you could opt for a phone-based customer service job or social media job.

If you are not sure about what kind of a job might be right for you, contact a vocational rehabilitation counselor who can help you not only determine the type of job that’s appropriate for you, but also help you find it. For more information, visit NTI@Home’s website (ww.ntiathome.org/work-at-home-jobs-disabled.shtm).

Understanding Income Limits

If you are currently receiving Social Security Disability Insurance or Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks, you can only make a certain amount in income each month, as an individual with a disability. When you fail to keep your income down, you may find your monthly disability payments getting reduced. It is important that you check the Social Security Administration’s website or talk to your caseworker or attorney for more information.

If you are being discriminated by an employer because of your disability, you may be able to seek compensation for your losses. Our experienced disability discrimination lawyers can help you better understand your legal rights and options.

disability discrimination

EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit Settles for Employee with Bi-Polar Disorder

EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit Settles for Employee with Bi-Polar Disorder

disability discrimination

A disability discrimination case has been settled by the EEOC on behalf of Cynthia Dunson, who worked for KFC franchise Hester Foods, Inc. The franchise has been ordered to pay Dunson $30,000, as well as implement training and practices which will prevent future discrimination from occurring in their workplaces.

Dunson was originally hired in March 2015 as a crew member at the Dublin, Georgia location. She was promoted to a Shift Manager shortly after beginning her employment. Problems didn’t arise until July 23rd, 2015 when the franchise owner asked to speak with Dunson after a team meeting. She let him know that she would have to hurry, because she had to leave to go to an appointment with her therapist. Upon hearing this information, the owner began to pry as to why she was seeing a therapist. Dunson explained that she was under the doctor’s care as well as taking prescribed medications for bi-polar disorder – he then inquired which medications she was taking. Dunson complied with his questioning and told him her medications. The owner reacted by telling her, “You can’t take that s*** and work here.” He then demanded that she flush her medications down the toilet, even instructing another manager to follow her into the restroom and ensure that she actually disposed of them.

Later that day, Dunson told her therapist what had happened. At that time she also disclosed to the therapist that the owner told her she “needs Jesus, not medication”. Dunson reported to work that evening, and was met by the owner who pointed his finger in her face and angrily said, “You are on that s***.” Dunson refuted his accusation, telling him that she got rid of the medication as he instructed her and therefore wasn’t on it. He replied that she “better not be”.

The following day, Dunson visited her doctor’s office. There she was told that she needed to take her medication again, as it was dangerous to abruptly stop taking them. The doctor paid for replacement medication, and took Dunson off of work for the remainder of the weekend. The doctor also had Dunson call the franchise owner while she was there to inform him of her upcoming absence from work and explain the necessity of her medication – he reacted by becoming angry and chastised her for “letting” her medical providers “tell her she needed to take that s***” and for “letting” them take her out of work. Dunson concluded the call by stating she intended to follow doctor’s orders. Within a few minutes, the owner called Dunson back and said she “could not come back to work if [she] was going to let them put things in her head”.

A few days later, Dunson’s husband went to the restaurant in her place to return her keys and uniform, and to pick-up her final paycheck.

The EEOC asserted that Dunson was “unlawfully terminated by Defendant because of her disability and/or because she was regarded as a person with a disability due to her impairment and use of legally prescribed medications.” They also asserted that the unlawful employment practices were “intentional” and “were done with malice and/or with reckless indifference to the federally protected rights of Dunson”.

 

Sources:

https://www.theemployerhandbook.com/files/2017/06/EEOC-v.-Hester-Foods-Complaint.pdf

http://hr.cch.com/ELD/EEOCHesterFoods013018.pdf

http://www.13wmaz.com/news/local/operator-of-dublin-kfc-settles-lawsuit-over-alleged-firing-of-bipolar-employee/513560990

http://www.employmentlawdaily.com/index.php/news/kfc-franchise-resolves-suit-over-discharge-of-manager-who-refused-to-forgo-bipolar-meds/

https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/6-12-17.cfm

Disability Discrimination

California Disability Discrimination Law

The governing body of Federal law regarding California disability discrimination is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA is a minimum standard, which means that individual states are able to further adjust or change their individual laws regarding disability. California disability discrimination law is unique because it takes a much broader approach to the word “disability.” This means that California recognizes a lot more illnesses, injuries, conditions, and diseases as qualifying for disability status than Federal law.

California law states describes a disability as a condition that limits one or more major life activities. Because working is considered a major life activity, any condition that affects an individual’s ability to work may be considered a disability under California law. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) recognizes individuals as “disabled” if they have a physical or mental condition that limits one or more major life activities, or they are incorrectly treated as having a disability, regardless of whether or not they actually have an impairment. There are three categories of disabilities: physical disabilities, mental disabilities, and medical conditions. Physical disabilities include physiological disease, disorders, conditions, and cosmetic disfigurement or anatomical loss that affects one or more of the following body systems: neurological, immunological, musculoskeletal, special sense organs, respiratory, including speech organs, cardiovascular, reproductive, digestive, genitourinary, hemic and lymphatic, skin and endocrine systems. Mental disabilities may include conditions such as mental retardation, organic brain syndrome, emotional or mental illness, certain learning disabilities, or other mental or psychological disorder or conditions that require special education or related services.
California disability law is not concerned with an individual’s ability to perform alternate jobs; they only need to be unable to perform the regular duties of the particular job they are pursuing. Furthermore, California law makes this determination without looking at mitigating factors like medication, assistive devices, reasonable accommodation, etc. An example of a mitigating factor would be the use of glasses to correct one’s vision. Even though an individual can correct their vision to near perfect with glasses, the law would still consider the bad vision a disability, as they would not be able to see properly without glasses as the mitigating factor. FEHA also ignores mitigating factors when determining whether a condition is a disability. This creates a system that works in favor of employees.

There are some conditions, however, that do not count as disabilities. These are sexual behavior disorders including but not limited to pedophilia, exhibitionism, or voyeurism. Also not covered are compulsive gambling, kleptomania, pyromania, or psychoactive substance use disorders resulting from illegal drugs.

Another key aspect of California disability discrimination law is the interactive process between employers and employees. The Fair Employment and Housing Commission focuses their evaluation of disability cases on whether the employer provided or attempted to provide the disabled employee with a reasonable accommodation. The interactive process is an open line of communication between employer and employee, where the parties work together to develop assistive measures for best accommodating an employee’s disability. The result is called a reasonable accommodation, which enables a disabled employee to perform the essential functions of the job. In order to qualify as a proper accommodation, the FEHA mentions that any adjustment made must be effective in overcoming the limitation. This accommodation could come in the form of time taken off to see a doctor, more frequent breaks, extra time to complete tasks, etc. It is important to keep in mind that the FEHA does not expect disabled employees to be accommodated without regard for the burden placed on an employer. Instead, the FEHA uses an undue hardship standard, which is considered whenever there is a mention of a reasonable accommodation.

View more information about disability discrimination and how our lawyers can help – http://www.aegislawfirm.com/ca-employment-law-practice-areas/disability-discrimination/

Wrongful Termination

Big Payout for Wrongful Termination of HR Director

A huge settlement was recently awarded to Cynthia Begazo for her wrongful termination case. Begazo initiated the case in September of 2015 after she was fired from Passages Malibu Rehab Center. She alleged that the termination was wrongful on the basis of discrimination and retaliation.

Begazo started working for Passages Malibu in March 2015 as their Human Resources Director. She was 53 at the time, and disclosed to her employers that she had been suffering from Leukemia. That same month, she first approached Passages co-founder Pax Prentiss about some concerns she had. She had noticed that some of the staff members such as maintenance, housekeepers, and kitchen workers were not receiving their lunches and breaks. Being in charge of HR, it would have been partially her responsibility to make sure the company was in compliance with state laws regarding lunches, breaks, and the like. Prentiss’ reply however, was disheartening. He allegedly told her, “Don’t worry about it. You have bigger things to worry about.” Around this time, Begazo also mentioned the facility’s compliance issues with training, licensure and contracts, but states that nothing was done to correct the issues.

The following month, the (soon to be) COO Marina Mahoney and Prentiss asked Begazo to terminate three employees – all of whom had medical issues. Begazo protested, telling Mahoney and Prentiss that terminating employees because of medical conditions was illegal. Mahoney replied that, “she would fire anyone that was too slow, could not keep up, [and] who did not fit in with the ‘new Passages’.” This was not the only occasion where Mahoney seemingly targeted employees with medical issues. Begazo alleges that throughout her employment, there were several times where Mahoney told her she did not like it when employees took time off for medical reasons. After it was all said and done, the three employees Mahoney singled out were in fact let go. C.J. Robinson was the first of these three to be terminated in April of 2015. When Begazo asked why she had been fired, Mahoney told her it was because Robinson was “too slow”, “smelled foul”, and “can’t keep up because she [was] too old”. Later that month, Debra Saunderson and Mark Bonelli were terminated, both of whom were over the age of 50. Begazo asked for the reasoning behind these terminations as well. Mahoney’s reasoning for letting Bonelli go was because, “he’s old” and she didn’t think “he’s ever going to keep up.” Again, Begazo warned Mahoney about the legality of terminating employees due to the age. Mahoney replied that she could “do whatever she wanted” because of the at-will presumption.

Not too long after, Kathryn Rivas (Passages Program Director) informed Begazo that she would need to take leave in order to recover from a medical condition. Begazo took this information to Mahoney who replied, “You know what, she’ll never work here. She’ll never work for me.” Despite Begazo’s concern over firing an employee with a medical condition, both Mahoney and Prentiss continued to press her, asking if there was “any way to fire” the employee. While the employee was on leave, Pretniss and Mahoney allegedly harassed Rivas. Begazo warned Prentiss that he should not contact an employee at all while they are on leave, “let alone harass them”. However, Prentiss ignored her recommendations.

In a shocking turn of events, a patient was found dead in his room on April 23rd, 2015. Upon inspection of the scene, Mahoney found that there was a plastic bag and a trash can covering the patient’s head, scratch marks on his face, and blood on the bed of the patient’s roommate. These details led Mahoney to note that although they initially thought the death was a suicide, it could have been a homicide. Begazo asked if all of this information had been given to the appropriate entities (detectives, Department of Health, the Joint Commission, and liability carrier). Mahoney replied, “I don’t want to say anything until there’s a medical report….I don’t want you reporting any of it.” After this, she promptly walked out of the room. Begazo reviewed employee files and discovered that the nurse on duty the night of the death had not received proper training. Mahoney admitted that the facility did not have “any formal or written procedures for intake, detoxing, and monitoring” the patients. Mahoney then ordered Begazo to alter the employee files and falsify information about the events surrounding the patient’s death, which Begazo refused to do. After this, Begazo states that Mahoney stopped talking to her, leaving her excluded from projects and employee meetings.

Around April 30th 2015, Begazo contracted an infection due to her Leukemia. Despite having a fever of 102 degrees, she went to work anyway due to fear of losing her job. Begazo’s doctor then put her off of work for one week in order to give her time to recuperate. Begazo informed the HR department and Mahoney on May 1st 2015 that she needed to take at least a three day absence from work due to the medical problems. She states that upon receiving this news, Mahoney was “visibly upset”.

Similar to what happened to the other employee that went on medical leave, Begazo states that while she was out she was contacted several times by Mahoney regarding work matters. She also required her to reply to all work related emails and telephone calls from staff members.

On May 3rd, Pretntiss and Mahoney met with the HR staff, and informed them that they would be terminating Begazo due to her medical leave of absence. At this time, Prentiss also offered Begazo’s job to HR generalist in Begazo’s department.

On May 6th 2015, Begazo returned to work only to be told that she was being terminated. Interestingly enough, Prentiss commented “You’re no longer a fit, but your skills and experience are excellent.”

Due to the overwhelming evidence of disability discrimination and retaliation (amongst other claims) on the part of Passages Malibu, the court found in favor of Begazo on March 3rd, 2017. The award amount totaled $1.8 million dollars.

 

Sources:

http://patch.com/california/malibu/former-passages-malibu-employee-alleges-improriety-lawsuit-0

http://www.dailynews.com/general-news/20150921/passages-malibu-rehab-center-sued-by-ex-hr-director-with-laundry-list-of-allegations

https://dlbjbjzgnk95t.cloudfront.net/0898000/898594/operativecomplaint.pdf

 

Disability Discrimination

HIV+ Disability Discrimination case will proceed

HIV positive employee’s disability discrimination, failure to accommodate claims will proceed, court rules

A Washington court has ruled that an employee’s claims of disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, retaliation, and wage withholding will proceed. The Defendants in the case, Kindred Nursing Centers West, had filed for summary judgement on said claims in hopes of having them dismissed.

The case was originally filed in 2014 by David Edman. He began working for the employers in July 2011 as their Food Services Manager. He worked without incident from his hired through the receipt of a new direct supervisor, Sandra Hurd. She became the facility’s new Executive Director in November 2012, and Edman reported to her directly. It wasn’t until April of 2013 however that Edman disclosed to Hurd that he is HIV positive.

In summer of 2013, Edman’s health began to deteriorate. He began losing a significant amount of weight, and his co-workers grew concerned about his wellbeing. That July, he received a written warning from Hurd regarding two arguments he had with staff members – one with a nurse, and one with a vendor. Edman admitted he had raised his voice, but stated his disposition was being negatively affected by his illness.

On July 29th, Edman had the day off from work for a previously scheduled doctor’s appointment. He received a call from Hurd however, telling him that the Department of Health & Human Services dropped by unexpectedly to conduct their annual survey. Edman claims that he told her he was ill and on the way to the doctor’s, but she insisted that he come in to work anyway. Hurd however claims that she did call to tell him about the survey, but did not ask him to come in, and rather said that she could handle it without him. Regardless, Edman cancelled his doctor’s appointment and worked from that day through August 6th at the conclusion of the survey. During that time, one of the surveyors complained to Hurd that Edman seemed “focused only on the timing of the meals, and not the accuracy or quality”, and also that he was yelling at staff members. Despite this complaint and his illness, Edman’s area received only one mark of deficiency. Hurd admitted he had “worked long hours throughout the week of the survey without asking for time off or accommodations for his illness”.

With the survey concluded, Edman was able to finally see his doctor on August 8th. At this appointment, his doctor Thomas Smith suggested that he go on immediate medical leave. Edman’s request to his employers for leave was granted, and he began receiving short term disability benefits.

Edman returned to work on October 1st, 2013. He had previously requested to work part-time for the first two weeks he was back, which was granted. However, on his first day back he received a written warning and was put on a Performance Improvement Plan for his behavior during the survey. Edman did not object to the behavior, citing “multiple infections and lack of sleep” as the cause of the issues. Hurd responded allegedly by saying that his medical conditions were “not an excuse”. Edman was the only employee disciplined because of the survey, despite the fact that the manager of another area received nine citations.

Later that month, Edman’s health took another serious hit as he was diagnosed with Kaposi’s Sarcoma – a form of cancer. Though he qualified under social security as having a disability, he would still be able to work without accommodations. On October 29th, he requested temporary accommodations while he was being treated as well as intermittent FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) leave. Upon hearing his requests, Hurd allegedly replied, “No, I can’t do this. You still have to do your job.” Two days later, Edman, Hurd, and HR Director Elaine Revelle met. There, they told Edman that they would not be able to provide the requested accommodations and he would instead be placed on unpaid leave while they discussed the situation. To add insult to injury, he was asked to leave the building thereafter.

During his leave, Edman sent several emails asking for the process to be sped up as he had no source of income. After providing additional information regarding his accommodations and an updated note from his doctor, some of Edman’s accommodations were finally granted on November 22nd. However, the acceptance came with the expectation for Edman to have cooking duties added to his work load. They stated this was necessary due to budget cuts. It wouldn’t be until December that more of his accomodations were granted, intended to allow him uninterrupted lunch in his office with the door closed and not having to interview residents. Other accommodations he had requested were denied, such as a temporary moratorium on changing dining services department operations, staffing, or duties, two weeks’ notice of any such changes, and his request to transfer to a position in the Central Supply Department, which would not require cooking. In place of the last request, the employers agreed to remove cooking from his duties.

On December 9th, Edman sent an email to his attorney describing the great stress the situation had caused him, and expressed an interest in “resolving his employment” with Kindred. The following day, an offer letter was sent to the company, requesting the possibility of his resignation “in exchange for certain compensation and fees”. This offer was rejected by the employers, and instead the parties continued communications about Edman returning to work.

In January 2014, Edman’s doctor released him to return to work with several accommodations, including:

  • Intermittent FMLA leave as needed
  • Uninterrupted 30 min lunch in his office with the door closed
  • 8 business days’ notice prior to deadline for any assessment, planned event, or staffing modification
  • An effort by all parties to keep stress levels low
  • Adequate rest between shifts

On January 6th, Edman returned to work full time but states that the accommodations outlined were not met, which caused his health to deteriorate once again. Despite this, he continued working for over another year before finally going on his last medical leave due to a work related injury. After his leave is when he initiated the lawsuit for claims of disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, retaliation, and wage withholding.

 

Sources:

http://hr.cch.com/eld/EdmanKindred112116.pdf

http://www.employmentlawdaily.com/index.php/news/hiv-positive-manager-put-on-pip-denied-accommodation-advances-disability-bias-claims/