Category: Disability Discrimination

Your Private Information Is Just That: Private

Sometimes, your boss knows things about you that you don’t want your coworkers to know.  Maybe you have a disability, or are going through marital troubles, or are being treated for bipolar disorder.

There are often good reasons you have to tell your supervisor things like this.  Maybe you explained why you had to miss work one day, or why you were so upset at work.  Just because you tell your boss, however, doesn’t mean it’s okay for him or her to tell everyone else.

California has a law that makes it illegal to publicly disclose private facts in certain situations.  For Melissa Ignat, the law became a reality when she missed work because of her bipolar disorder, and her boss shockingly decided to tell all of her coworkers about it while she was out.  Ms. Ignat had not told her coworkers about her bipolar disorder and was very upset that her supervisor had done so.

Worse, her coworkers started avoiding her and treating her differently.  One even asked the boss if Ms. Ignat was going to “go postal” and harm them because of her disorder.

It is not just poor managing or gossip for a supervisor to share your private information – it can even be against the law.  Employees are supposed to be able to feel comfortable talking to their bosses when there is something going on in their lives that may affect their work.  Bosses like Ms. Ignat’s, however, are one of many reasons employees often feel uncomfortable talking to their supervisors about important topics.

We will have to wait until her trial against the company next year to find out whether a jury agrees that Ms. Ignat’s boss broke the law, but if you have been the victim of a supervisor’s public disclosure of your private information, you don’t have to wait that long.  Contact an Aegis attorney if Ms. Ignat’s situation sounds familiar to you.

Quarrelling Lovers’ Unstable Behavior Not Enough To Warrant Employer’s Demand For Medical Examination

White Lake Ambulance Authority, in fair Michigan, where we lay our scene. The tiffs between two Emergency Medical Technicians, one married, and one not, stirred up action in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Emily Kroll was apparently infatuated with her coworker Joshua Easton, who was married. The pair frequently quarreled in person, via e-mail, text messages and phone calls. Ms. Kroll, who seemed to be the party most jolted by the arguments started exhibiting erratic behavior, including screaming and crying. Although most of Ms. Kroll’s unstable behavior took place outside of working hours, the Director of the Ambulance Authority for which the couple worked for grew concerned and ordered Ms. Kroll to seek counseling if she wanted to keep her job. Naturally, after she left the company, she sued.

After losing on summary judgment, Ms. Kroll appealed. The Sixth Circuit granted Ms. Kroll a jury trial and remanded. The reasoning? Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), an employer cannot require an employee to have a medical examination unless the examination is job-related and consistent with business necessity. Despite exhibiting some unstable behavior, including refusing to administer oxygen to a patient because she was told to do so by Mr. Easton, as well as talking on the phone while driving the ambulance, the Court found that Ms. Kroll’s erratic behavior did not meet the threshold for an employer-mandated medical examination.

Purloined Potty Privacy

bathroomThis falls under the heading of “be glad you don’t work here”:  In Chicago, Illinois, a company has started monitoring the time employees spend in the bathroom and disciplining employees it thinks use the restroom too much.

The company requires employees to swipe a card on a card reader when they enter and exit the bathroom, and keeps track of how much time each employee spends in the toilet.  If an employee spends more than 60 minutes in the bathroom in ten working days – or about 6 minutes per day – the employee can be given a disciplinary warning for “excessive use of the bathroom.”  On the other hand, an employee who does not use the restroom at all during a workday can earn a dollar on a gift card, for up to $20 per month.

In California, there would be several problems with a potty policy like this.  California goes a lot further than many states to protect employee privacy.  Keeping a list monitoring all line employees’ bathroom time seems to be a fairly major invasion of the employees’ privacy, and while there are no laws directly addressing this situation, there is a good chance the courts would agree the employer’s policy goes much too far.

Even worse, the potty policy could require employees to give their employers private, medical information.  There are numerous medical and disability-related reasons an employee might not be able to comply with the 6-minute limit or might need more than one or two bathroom breaks in a day, from Crohn’s Disease to medication-related incontinence issues, to nausea from pregnancy or even cancer-related chemotherapy.  Not only would the potty policy discriminate against these people, which would be unlawful, but it also might require them to explain their medical conditions simply to keep their jobs.  Normally, employers are very limited in what kinds of medical information they can ask, but a policy like the one the Chicago company has would basically require employees to volunteer the information.  A California company almost certainly would not be able to get away with such taboo toilet tracking.

Hobby Lobby in Center of Another Controversial Debate Regarding a Transgender Employee

Meggan Sommerville worked for Hobby Lobby in Aurora, Illinois as a frame shop manager for sixteen years. In 2010, Sommerville underwent a transition and legally changed her identity and gender to female. Though she claims her co-workers were relatively positive of the process, Sommerville claims management began discriminating against her for being a transgender woman.

In 2011, Sommerville began her lawsuit against Hobby Lobby with the Illinois Department of Human Rights because the craft chain refused to allow her to use the women’s restroom facility. Instead, the company insisted she continue to use the men’s facilities.

Sommerville had to wait until the men’s restroom was empty before she would enter. On one occasion, Sommerville could not wait and she used the female restroom. She was disciplined immediately. Though the suit was initially dismissed, it was reinstated by the Human Rights Commission.

According to the pending suit, the management at Hobby Lobby informed Sommerville that unless she “undergo genital reconstructive surgery” she would not receive “equal treatment as a female employee.” When Sommerville was caught in the women’s restroom, she felt like she was getting written up for merely acting her appropriate gender.

Because she was barred from using the gender appropriate restroom, Sommerville was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, bladder problems, and dehydration because she had limited fluid intake. Further, the complaint alleges that Hobby Lobby’s policies resulted in Sommerville’s “over-anxiousness, embarrassment, shame, depression, anxiety, emotional distress, feelings of helplessness,” as well as a sleeping troubles.

Hobby Lobby is asserting the same conservative ideologies used in the infamous Supreme Court decision.

Image Source: thenation.com

 

California Supreme Court Votes in Favor of Undocumented Workers’ Rights

ssVicente Salas was an employee of Sierra Chemical in California when, while on the job, he injured his back and subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim. Sierra Chemical, then, underwent an annual force reduction, a seasonal occurrence, and terminated Salas. Salas was not hired again when the season’s hiring process began.

Salas sued the company alleging disability discrimination and retaliation for his workers’ compensation claim. Originally, Sierra Chemicals prevailed and was granted a motion for summary judgment since Salas had used a false social security number to obtain his position at Sierra Chemical. The appeals court upheld this decision as well.

The case escalated to the California Supreme Court.  It reversed the lower courts’ motion of summary judgment. The California Supreme Court that while recovery rights of undocumented workers are limited, they are afforded to protections under the Fair Employment and Housing Act. The decision makes it possible for undocumented workers to bring a lawsuit against an employer for unlawful behavior.