In Minneapolis the EEOC announced they reached a deal with a company accused of firing a veteran with a service related disability. The press release from the EEOC said “a Plymouth, Minn., Roto Rooter location denied an employee who returned from the Iraq War with service-related disabilities reasonable accommodations to enable him to return to work. Instead, the EEOC said, Roto Rooter fired the employee. Following the investigation, the EEOC determined that there was reasonable cause to believe that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).” Roto Rooter paid out $100,000 in a conciliation agreement and agreed to institute training on “the ADA and reasonable accommodation and to report employee requests for reasonable accommodation to the EEOC.” The EEOC office said they were happy that the company had decided to cooperate and not go through protracted litigation.
I call this stupid HR not because someone in HR did something wrong. This was most likely a local operations manager making this decision. But it was a stupid decision. What makes it stupid HR is that there was no oversight on the decision; or there was no training on what laws have to be complied with; or both. This is not a case of ignorance of the law, in my opinion. In today’s environment any intelligent manager would have to know that firing someone with a disability is probably wrong and on top of it firing a veteran asking for an accommodation is probably wrong. That doesn’t mean that you can’t do both those things but there are steps that need to be taken to insure that you have afforded all parties an opportunity to make sure that every reasonable effort has been made to insure that an accommodation can work.
My friend, Steve Browne, whom I admire as a professional HR executive, admonished his audience at #SHRM15 for being down on the profession of HR. I want to assure Steve that I am not beating on HR. I am beating on stupid decisions. However, if an HR person was involved in this decision they should be strung up by their heels and pummeled with a stack of personnel files. They either didn’t know, which is shameful, or they caved to the operations manager, which is also shameful.
If you are in HR or management don’t make these types of decisions, just don’t. HR stand up and exhibit some backbone.