I. What are Your Responsibilities as an Employer?
The federal American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and many similar state laws require employers to “reasonably” accommodate an otherwise qualified disabled applicant or employee to perform the essential job functions of the position or enjoy equal benefits of employment as similarly situated employees. Similarly, other federal and state civil rights statutes prohibiting discrimination based on gender, religion, and race require an employer to accommodate an employee’s reasonable request for schedule changes, dress, and grooming practices due to religious beliefs or gender identity. The law also requires employers to reasonably accommodate pregnant employees. The issue of whether the employer must accommodate gender non-conforming or non-binary employees has not yet been fully resolved by the trend is to required such accommodations.
II. What are Your Responsibilities as an Employer?
The law does not require that you meet the specific demands of the employee, only that you make “reasonable” accommodation when called to do so. We will explore numerous examples from various courts and the EEOC of what constitutes a “reasonable” accommodation under various circumstances. However, the trend is clear that courts will require employers to at least attempt to accommodate objectively reasonable requests that do not endanger coworkers or severely impact business operations. We will also explore some of the unfortunate extremes to which some cases have ventured when requiring accommodation.
The law does not require that you meet the specific demands of the employee, only that you make a “reasonable” accommodation when called to do so. We will explore numerous examples from various courts and the EEOC of what constitutes a “reasonable” accommodation under various circumstances. However, the trend is clear that courts will require employers to at least attempt to accommodate objectively reasonable requests that do not endanger coworkers or severely impact business operations. We will also explore some of the unfortunate extremes to which some cases have ventured when requiring an accommodation.
III. What Are Your Rights as an Employer?
The courts and the EEOC have recognized various legitimate limitations on an employee’s right to demand workplace accommodations. We will explore a few well-recognized legal exceptions to the accommodation requirement including safety concerns and undue hardship to the employer. We will also provide some of the “go-to” defenses when an employee makes objectively unreasonable accommodation requests.
IV. Striking a Balance between Your Rights and Responsibilities in a Politically Correct World
Social and news media often shape the public’s view of the world—and of employers. Often, employers feel the pressure to make accommodations to demanding employees when not legally required to do so. What are the ramifications of making such accommodations? If you give the employee an inch will he take a mile? We will explore the practical and legal effects of both enforcing your rights and the failure to take a consistent stand on certain demands for accommodation.
Barry Montgomery – Partner, KPM Law
Barry, a partner with KPM LAW, began his career in litigation before he graduated law school by working as an intern at the United States Attorney’s office where he had the opportunity to prosecute federal criminal cases. In his first case, Barry successfully prosecuted a business owner for manufacturing counterfeit currency and bank checks. It was at this point that he decided that he would spend his career in commercial litigation. Barry then began representing insurance companies in fraud and coverage cases as well as personal injury defense.
While Barry still represents insurers and their insureds in commercial litigation, he now focuses his practice on labor and employment law and litigation, as well as professional liability litigation. Barry believes that labor is the force that drives our economy and that an organization’s greatest resource is its employees. Barry believes that management and professional decisions can be vigorously defended in and out of court without compromising an organization’s brand or relationship with its workforce.
Brian A. Cafritz – Partner, KPM Law
Brian has been an invaluable member of the KPM LAW team since 1994, his commitment having helped solidify and expand the foundation of KPM LAW’s regional defense network. Brian primarily focuses his practice on the defense of Fortune 500 companies that operate under large self-insured retentions. With bar licenses in four jurisdictions, he has built a dedicated team and developed an efficient system that allows him to aggressively defend all matters in a regional practice that covers the entire mid-Atlantic region.
As Brian’s practice became more focused on Retail and Restaurant litigation, it became evident to him that the Plaintiff’s bar was more organized in sharing its resources, and so in 2006 – 2007, Brian co-founded the National Retail and Restaurant Defense Association (NRRDA) to promote the education and communication channels of industry leaders and counsel. Brian was elected to serve two terms as the association’s first president. Under Brian’s leadership, NRRDA continued to grow. Today, NRRDA boasts over 600 members and is seen as a leader in the Retail and Restaurant sector.
This article is part of our Conference Materials Library and has a PowerPoint counterpart that can be accessed in the Resource Libary.
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