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Every now and then a case comes along that is just too obvious, much like the case of EEOC v. OK Concrete, for which a consent decree was announced yesterday by the EEOC.  Just in case there are employers out there who haven’t caught on to this nuance of the Disabilities Act (ADA) yet, we’ll break it down in clear and unambiguous terms: terminating an employee after he informs his employer that he may need a few days off to receive treatment for a recent cancer diagnosis is not going to go over well for the EEOC. It is critical for employers to engage in the interactive process.

When Joey Snyder, a concrete mixer driver for OK Concrete, informed his supervisor that he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and may need some upcoming time off, his employer responded by terminating him within hours.  Snyder’s condition did not prevent him from performing any of the duties of his job.  Under the ADA, an employer has a duty to begin the interactive process when an employee with a disability requests an accommodation (workplace, leave of absence, etc.). While the EEOC has stressed that the request for an accommodation or leave as an accommodation does not need to be formal, the employer is still responsible for engaging in the interactive process with that employee. Suzanne Anderson, Supervisory Trial Attorney for EEOC’s Dallas District Office, stated “OK Concrete Company discriminated against Mr. Snyder by making assumptions about his disability and his ability to perform all of the functions of the job.” In this case the employer never provided Snyder with the opportunity to engage in the interactive process, rather he was terminated immediately.

As part of the consent decree, OK Concrete will pay $45,000 in monetary relief to Mr. Snyder, provide training on the ADA to its managers and employees, implement a policy against disability discrimination, and post notices against discrimination in all of its facilities.

What Can Employers Learn?

It is critical for employers to engage in the interactive process when an employee requests an accommodation for a disability, no matter how informal the request may be. This process will allow the employer to evaluate the employee’s abilities and job-duties, and make a holistic assessment as to whether or not the employer is able to provide the accommodation as requested.  Employers may also consider an undue hardship analysis, where appropriate.  This newly issued document assists employers in making this determination.

Disability disclosures have you in doubt? Leave it to the disability experts at ReedGroup. We provide a variety of services and software to assist you in managing your ADA accommodations.

Compliance Team

Compliance Team

James Venable, JD, SPHR, is the Vice President of Employment Law, Absence and Accommodation Compliance at ReedGroup, where he provides expertise in Absence Management Compliance and Employee Relations Counseling. Mr. Venable has more than 20 years of experience across senior roles in Legal, Human Resources, and Compliance from several Fortune 500 companies. Mr. Venable joined ReedGroup in April 2018 after serving as Vice President of Human Resources, Employee Relations, Labor Relations, Compliance and Environmental Health and Safety for Comcast, where he was responsible for engagement and labor relations activities for the company’s West Division Business Unit.

Lori Welty, Esq. is a Compliance Attorney at ReedGroup. Ms. Welty provides expertise in all areas of state and federal leave law, including Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and their state law equivalents as well as disability and family leave benefits. Ms. Welty is an ongoing author of ReedGroup’s LeaveAdvisor online reference tool, as well as many other white papers and articles.

Sheri Pullen is a Compliance Analyst at Reed Group. Ms. Pullen develops leave of absence and disability content across a variety of platforms and provides compliance analysis, direction, and expertise regarding the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), state leave laws, and ERISA as it relates to disability plans. Ms. Pullen has a strong compliance-focused background comprised of more than 20 years of experience in writing, editing, business analysis, and consulting.

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