Capstone Logistics LLC, a Norcross, Ga.-based manufacturing and distribution company, will pay $50,000 and provide significant equitable relief to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The National Law Review
ADA Title III claims have become a trap for many unsuspecting businesses. The claims often lead to protracted litigation driven by attorney fees rather than the underlying issue.
A recent decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit offers a potential “fix” for employers. In Davis v. Anthony, Inc. Case No. 16-4051 (8th Cir. March 29, 2018), the court affirmed the dismissal of a disabled patron’s Title III lawsuit based on the restaurant’s quick remedial action.
Managing employees on medical leave of absence is one of the most vexing human resource problems a company must manage. Not only must the company ensure compliance with any statutorily mandated leaves that may be applicable, such as FMLA or CFRA, it must also consider the medical leave process in the context of disability discrimination and its obligation to reasonably accommodate a qualified disabled employee. Particularly difficult is the issue of when an employer may say “no” to continued extensions of a medical leave by a disabled employee.
On Wednesday, a U.S. District Court judge for the Eastern District of Virginia dismissed a case claiming that Washington Gas Light Federal Credit Union, which has $115 million in assets and about 8,400 members, operated a website that wasn’t fully accessible to blind users and thus violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The dismissal is at least the fourth to occur in the Eastern District of Virginia (one of those cases has since been refiled; another is on appeal, however).
Skilled practitioners know they must keep an eye on potential employment litigation stemming from workers' compensation claims. The case of Dallefeld v. The Clubs at River City, Inc., 2017 AD Cases 244151 (D. Illinois 2017) provides a good illustration.
In April 2013, Dino Theodore was admitted to the Saints campus of Lowell General Hospital with a fractured hip and femur.
It wasn't the typical patient experience.
As Theodore, of Lowell, who is paralyzed from the waist down and restricted to a wheelchair, began to recover, he found "despicable" problems with the facility, including bathroom doors and walkways too narrow to accommodate a wheelchair.
"I could not take a shower, I could not go in to use the facilities," he said. "It's very important for a person in a wheelchair -- disabled, paralyzed -- to get up out of bed because the skin integrity is poor so a person needs to get up and move around, but I couldn't do that. I was confined to my bed."
Theodore, who describes himself as an aggressive advocate for access, wasn't the typical patient from the hospital's perspective, either.
He and his attorney, Nicholas Guerrera, had previously sued Lowell General Hospital under the Americans with Disability Act for noncompliance at its main campus. And a year after Theodore's admission, they sued again to address his complaints about the Saints campus.
Like Canada, the United States has federal legislation protecting employees with disabilities. While Canada has the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Human Rights Act, the United States has the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). While both Canadian and U.S. laws protect disabled employees from discrimination, the ADA has very specific procedures and requirements for accommodating employees with disabilities that even sophisticated U.S. employers frequently get wrong. Below is a discussion of several key concepts under the ADA that employers in the United States should know about.
Legal News Line
A motion to dismiss an EEOC lawsuit against a security systems company over allegations of violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act was denied on Dec. 18 by Judge Bernard A. Friedman of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against G4S Security Systems in September. G4S Security Systems, which is headquartered in Florida, is accused of terminating security officer Christine Ross, who worked at a client company in Michigan. Ross has lupus and a connective tissue disorder, which limited her ability to walk a beat. G4S Security Systems sought to dismiss the suit.
Although G4S allegedly knew Ross could not function in a position that required a lot of walking, she was assigned to a foot-patrol position. Before long, Ross requested a transfer back to her seated security position, allegedly her request was denied and she was fired in 2015. Upon her dismissal, Ross filed a disability discrimination charge with the EEOC.
Efforts to provide some reconciliation between G4S and the EEOC failed, and the EEOC filed suit to seek compensation and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief for Ross. G4S then filed a motion to dismiss.
The company said that "(1) the court lacks subject matter jurisdiction because the EEOC did not attach its charge of discrimination to the complaint, (2) Ross’s condition does not constitute a disability within the meaning of the ADA, and (3) the EEOC did not exhaust its administrative remedies," the opinion stated.
“This court has subject-matter jurisdiction over all civil actions arising under the laws of the United States, including EEOC enforcement actions. ... No authority supports defendant’s proposition that the court has subject matter jurisdiction only when the EEOC attaches its charge of discrimination to the complaint. The authority defendant cites on this point is inapplicable and unpersuasive,” the opinion stated.
Concerning Ross’ disability as it relates to the ADA, Friedman ruled: “The complaint ... sufficiently alleges that Ross was disabled within the meaning of the ADA. Under the ADA, an individual is disabled if she suffers from 'a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.'"
In a third allegation, G4S argued that because Ross had not yet initiated arbitration proceedings, the EEOC has not exhausted its administrative remedies and may not pursue this enforcement action. To this, the judge said that the "EEOC may pursue this action regardless of whether Ross pursues the arbitration required by her collective bargaining agreement" and cited a similar case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Indeed, nothing in the ADA or any Supreme Court case 'suggests that the existence of an arbitration agreement between private parties materially changes the EEOC’s statutory function or the remedies that are otherwise available,'” Friedman said.
Inside Higher Ed
Higher education institutions should establish new rules and regulations regarding hiring process for disabled faculty members, argues Amir Haji-Akbari.