Failing to Give Employee Emergency Restroom Break May Violate Disability Law

    The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”)  claims that the Home Depot violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), which prohibits disability discrimination in employment and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees, unless such accommodation would cause an undue hardship.FN1 According to the EEOC, the Home Depot refused to allow an employee with irritable bowel syndrome and fibromyalgia a short bathroom break and instead fired her for abandoning her post at a register when she left to use the restroom. The Home Depot denied the allegations, and denied knowing Plaintiff had irritable bowel syndrome, but despite these facts, the EEOC claims that a short break to care for herself and return to work was an ADA reasonable accommodation that the Home Depot could have—and should have—provided to accommodate the employee’s disability.

    The Home Depot agreed to settle the case by paying the employee $100,000.00 and to provide other relief, such as training, notice-posting, and record-keeping.

Key Takeaway

    The EEOC continues to focus heavily on disability discrimination claims. To ensure compliance with the ADA and minimize exposure to liability and potential EEOC lawsuits, employers should consider providing employees revised notice of the Company’s disability policy and encourage those with disabilities who may need accommodations to take necessary steps to engage in the interactive process. Employers should also consider re-training management on identifying and responding to employee requests for accommodation and how granting or denying such a request may impact employer liability. Consideration should also be given to whether discipline may lead to discrimination claims. Employers should carefully investigate the circumstances of policy infractions to determine whether an employee has requested an accommodation for a disability or engaged in protected conduct.

Footnotes

FN1:   https://www.dol.gov/newsroom/releases/whd/whd20180827

FN2:   See 29 U.S.C. § 213(a)(1).

FN3:   Rocky Mountain Employer, DOL Seeks Time to Rewrite White Collar Overtime Exceptions, Rocky Mountain Employer Blog (Nov. 2, 2017), http://www.rockymountainemployersblog.com/blog/2017/11/2/dol-seeks-time-to-rewrite-white-collar-overtime-exceptions.

Rocky Mountain Employer, Obama-Era Increase in Minimum Salary Level for Overtime Exemption Officially Invalidated, Rocky Mountain Employer Blog (September 14, 2017), http://www.rockymountainemployersblog.com/blog/2017/9/14/obama-era-increase-in-minimum-salary-level-for-overtime-exemption-officially-invalidated.

Rocky Mountain Employer, U.S. Department of Labor Weighs in on Increase in “White Collar Exemption” Overtime Salary Threshold, Rocky Mountain Employer Blog (July 13, 2017), http://www.rockymountainemployersblog.com/blog/2017/7/13/us-department-of-labor-weighs-in-on-increase-in-white-collar-exemption-overtime-salary-threshold.

Rocky Mountain Employer, Federal Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction Temporarily Enjoining DOL's December 1, 2016 Overtime Rule, Rocky Mountain Employer Blog (November 22, 2016), http://www.rockymountainemployersblog.com/blog/2016/11/22/federal-judge-grants-preliminary-injunction-temporarily-enjoining-dols-december-1-2016-overtime-rule.

 

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