Earlier this month, AutoZone was accused of violating federal disability laws concerning its employees. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed four lawsuits against the company in recent years over the same issue.
By law, employees cannot be discriminated against in the workplace because of their disability, their history of a disability, or their relationship with an individual with a disability. Both federal and state laws prohibit disability discrimination.
Not everyone with a medical problem is considered disabled and therefore protected under the law, however. In order to be considered disabled, a person must have one of three conditions: a physical or mental condition that substantially impacts a major life activity, a physical or mental impairment that is not transitory and minor, or a history of disability.
According to the EEOC, for several years AutoZone had a system of giving out points for absences. If an employee got 12 points, he or she was terminated. The system failed to give any exception for absences that were related to a disability. As a result, employees with even small numbers of absences that were directly related to their disability were fired, which violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as other laws.
One of the employees that was fired had diabetes and occasionally had to leave work early because of insulin reactions. Another employee was allegedly discharged in retaliation for complaining about the policy and filing a charge with the EEOC. Earlier this year, the company was hit with a $415,000 verdict in a disability discrimination lawsuit involving an employee with a chronic back injury who was forced to mop the floors. The company finally fired him.
Disability discrimination can occur in a variety of ways. If a disabled employee is treated in a negative way in any aspect of employment because of the disability, including, hiring, firing, promotions, pay, or benefits, that could be considered disability discrimination. Also, if an employee is harassed in the workplace because of his or her disability, that could also be considered as discrimination.
In some cases, an employer may have a legitimate reason to not hire a person with a disability. If the disability absolutely prevents the person from being qualified for the job, an employer would not be committing illegal discrimination if it refused to hire the person. However, if a person with a disability can perform a job with reasonable accommodation, the employer is required to provide that to the employee. For example, allowing the employees who missed work at AutoZone due to a disability to have excused absences on occasion for health-related issues without receiving points would be considered a reasonable accommodation. Allowing the employee with a chronic back injury to perform other work instead of mopping the floors would be a reasonable accommodation.
If an employer fires you, lays you off, harasses you, demotes you, or takes any other similar actions against you because of your disability, you have a legal case against the employer. You may be able to sue under federal or state law, or both, for compensation. You may be entitled to money for lost wages, lost benefits, emotional pain related to the job situation, and more.
At Liberty Law, Micha Star Liberty believes that employees who are being discriminated against in the workplace should vigorously pursue a claim against their employer. Employers should not be allowed to discriminate and get away with it. If you have been the victim of disability discrimination, call Micha Star Liberty, Oakland disability discrimination attorney, at 510-645-1000 or 415-896-1000. She works with clients who have had their legal rights violated in the Oakland-San Francisco Bay area. Call today to learn more.