A West Virginia auto dealership learned a very expensive, $56,000 plus legal fees, lesson in ADA compliance this month. The dealership settled a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on December 16, 2011. The EEOC had charged that Jim Robinson Ford-Lincoln-Mercury unlawfully refused to accommodate the disability of a salesperson and then fired him.
The EEOC charged that Jim Robinson Ford fired Bryan Perry because of his disability, a leg condition that affected his ability to walk, after denying him a reasonable accommodation. Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
In addition to the $56,000 in monetary relief paid to Perry, the three-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins Jim Robinson Ford from engaging in any further employment practice that discriminates based on disability or retaliation. In addition, the decree mandates that the company will adopt certain procedures and training to enable it to accurately assess whether disabled employees can perform the essential functions of their jobs and to identify reasonable accommodations that will assist disabled employees, according to the EEOC press release.
Under the ADA, if an employer is asked to provide reasonable accommodations to a disabled employee the employee must establish what are truly essential and what are non-essential functions of the job. This requirement is just one of the many reasons why it is so important for a company to have accurate and complete job description for each position. Employers are also required to make reasonable accommodations with the intent being to balance good process practices, monetary concerns and the requirements of the job. The ADA does not provide a specific definition of what is a reasonable accommodation since what is a considered reasonable will depend on the facts and circumstances of a particular situation. Reasonable accommodation may include modifying work schedules, making physical changes to the work site or equipment, adjusting supervisory methods, modifying a workplace policy, restructuring a job, providing a job coach, and/or reassigning an employee to a vacant position for which (s)he is qualified. Reasonable accommodation does not require lowering performance standards or removing essential functions of the individual’s job.
Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, commented “The employer must then work to identify a reasonable accommodation for the employee’s disability. Earnest, interactive communication with the employee, viewing the purpose of the job and its functions realistically, and carefully researching and considering options for reasonable accommodation of the disability are all keys to ADA compliance.”
In Fiscal Year 2011, the EEOC received a record 99,947 private-sector workplace discrimination charges, the highest number of charges in the agency’s 46-year history.
Further information about this case is available at http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/12-16-11.cfm
To download a free template to create job descriptions go to http://www.kpaonline.com/what-we-do/hr/hr-resources/whitepapers.html