$3.5M Settlement in Disability Discrimination Suit

$3.5M Settlement in Disability Discrimination Suit

In a development that sent shock waves all the way to Chicago, Dotty’s Casino, which operates slot machines in Montana and Nevada, agreed to pay $3.5 million to resolve claims that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the company required all disabled employees to be 100% healthy before returning to work, per a 2012 policy. In other words, the company refused to even consider giving reasonable accommodations to these individuals so they could return to work earlier. EEOC Las Vegas Director Wendy Martin said the action was part of the agency’s mission to “identify and eradicate systemic disability discrimination.”

A lawyer for Dotty’s denied that any discrimination took place and characterized the settlement as a business decision.

When is a Reasonable Accommodation Available in Chicago?

Many companies in Illinois probably have similar disability policies. They do not allow injured workers to come back until they are fully healed. Under the ADA, an “injured” worker is a “disabled” worker. So, all the law’s protections apply to injured workers. The employer can only bar such people from working if their injury prevents them from performing basic job functions. Such workers are not “qualified” individuals under the ADA.

A reasonable accommodation can never be something related to job functions. For example, an employee cannot ask to go home early. But a reasonable accommodation in Chicago does include things like:

  • Facilities Access: Some employers confuse the ability to use certain tools or equipment with the ability to do the job. These are two different things. The ability to do the job is typically mental and not physical. If the worker needs some assistance with the physical components, the employer must grant them, in most cases.
  • Equipment: If a worker needs new equipment to perform the job, even if it is only a temporary need, the employer must typically provide it. The same thing applies in terms of modifying existing equipment.
  • Reassignment: If a vacant position is available and the worker can perform all functions without accommodation, a transfer is mandatory. The positions usually need to be substantially similar not only in terms of job duties but also in terms of pay and benefits.

Some other common accommodations include schedule changes, job restructuring, and interpreters or readers.

Employer Defenses in Chicago

If the requested accommodation poses an undue hardship on the employer, the employer may refuse to grant such accommodation. An “undue hardship” involves things like:

  • Excessively high cost,
  • Unreasonable disruption,
  • Efforts that significantly misallocate resources, or
  • An accommodation that fundamentally alters the nature of the business.

This defense is difficult to establish. The ADA’s definition of “reasonable accommodation” is different than the one used in other Title VII cases.

Even if the worker’s initial request would pose an undue hardship, the employer still has a duty to dialogue with the worker. This conversation need not be formal. However, the employer must make efforts like proposing a different arrangement that would not pose an undue hardship or request documents in support of the employee’s request.

Work With a Tenacious Attorney

Injured workers are also entitled to ADA protection. For a free consultation with an experienced employment law attorney in Chicago, contact the Law Office of Mitchell A. Kline. Our main office is conveniently located in downtown Chicago.