If an employee mentions they have a disability you had better start talking


Employees are not required to announce in legal language that they have a disability.
Employees are not required to announce in legal language that they have a disability.

What do you do if you employee comes to you and says she has cancer and she is concerned that she may have difficulty performing her work? You don’t answer “So are you going to resign?”
Interactive discussion
Yes, that did occur. There were more details to this case but my intent is not really to discuss them. If you are interested you can find the details here. The results of the case were that the company is having to defend itself against a charge of constructive discharge because the court ruled that the supervisor did not exercise proper procedure as required under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendment Act (ADAAA). Under the ADAAA if an employee tells you they have a potential disability, such as mentioning they have cancer, that is enough to start the process of “engaging in an interactive discussion” to determine if the employee will be able to perform the essential functions of the job. The court said at the very least the employee should have been referred to the human resources department.
There are several lessons from this all companies should pay attention to:

  1. First, TRAIN your supervisors. All of them need to be aware of any situation where illness or disability is even hinted at. This should ring a warning bell in their head to stop and understand what has been said.
  2. They should then inform HR or management.
  3. Then an interactive, meaning a back and forth, discussion should occur to determine if any accommodation might be needed, depending on the circumstances.
  4. And this needs to be documented.

In this particular case the supervisor needed to be less concerned about the department and a bit more concerned about the employee. A little empathy might have saved a lot of money.

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