Best Ohio Disability Discrimination Attorney Answer: What does my employer have to do for me so I can keep working with my disability? Can I be fired if I can’t do my job without an accommodation? Does my employer have to give me extra help because of my disability? What should I do if I want to sue my boss for disability discrimination?
Epilepsy is certainly not a new ailment. However, according to Wikipedia, the way the condition has been viewed by society and the treatments that are prescribed for the condition have changed dramatically over the years. Epilepsy involves recurring seizures. Seizures may vary in degree and severity, but a full blown seizure can be a disturbing occurrence for both the person who is being affected and any witnesses. Epilepsy can be difficult to diagnose and even more difficult to understand why an individual has a seizure, even with the benefit of modern medicine and the immense scientific advances that have been made in the practice of medicine. But imagine how scary it must have been to witness or experience a seizure in ancient times, or even a couple hundred years ago. Perhaps it was out of fear or a lack of understanding that prompted people living in those times to term the condition: the sacred disease. It must have made sense at the time to assume that a God, or Gods, played a role in the condition. It also wasn’t uncommon for people with epilepsy to be treated like they suffered from a debilitating mental illness, or ostracized from mainstream society.
The father of modern Western medicine, Hippocrates, was one of the first practitioners to espouse the theory that seizures were not the result of divine intervention, but rather a treatable medical condition. Hippocrates is also given credit for the Hippocratic Oath. The Hippocratic Oath has traditionally been a creed intended to guide physicians in the practice of medicine and that new physicians entering the practice of medicine have sworn to uphold. The Oath —in some version or another—is still administered by medical schools to its graduating students, and the overall principle is that the students agree to do no harm in the practice of medicine. One modern version of the Hippocratic Oath is the Declaration of Geneva. The Declaration contains the following statement: “I will not permit considerations of age, disease or disability, creed, ethnic origin, gender, nationality, political affiliation, race, sexual orientation, social standing or any other factor to intervene between my duty and my patient.”
Which brings us to the topic of today’s employment law attorneys blog: epilepsy, disability discrimination, and the duty of an employer to offer an employee a reasonable accommodation under Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). The United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals recently reversed a lower court’s decision to dismiss a case filed by an employee who suffered from epilepsy. In EEOC v. LHC Group, Inc., the district court held that an employer has a statutory duty to discuss reasonable accommodations to an eligible employee who has disclosed a disability. The plaintiff in the LHC case, Kristy Sones, was a registered nurse (RN) who was hired to work as a Field Nurse for the company in 2006. Field Nurses provided in home care to patients, which required the nurse to travel to visit 6-8 patients during a shift. The travel amounted to at least a few hours per shift. In March 2009, Kristy was offered a promotion to the position of Team Leader. Team Leaders managed the Field Nurses, scheduled the Field Nurses, and worked with the doctors and pharmacists. Sometimes, the Team Leader had to fill in for absent Field Nurses. In May 2009, Sones suffered a grand mal seizure, and was transported to the hospital. Two days later Sones was released to return to work, but upon her return she began to have problems with her employer. When Sones’ physician released her return to work, he indicated that Sones could not drive for one year, Sones discussed this issue with her supervisors, and they all agreed that Sones would be able to make transportation arrangements with her co-worker and neighbor. Sones also requested extra help with computer work she had to perform because her medications affected her memory and made her tired.
Over the next week Sones experienced difficulty performing her job, but the parties did not agree on the level of difficulty she experienced or whether her supervisors informed her that her performance was suffering. On June 19, Sones’ supervisors met with her to explain problems and errors, and created a target date of July 31 for Sones to become proficient in the Team Leader position. Sones also claims that her supervisor told her that if her, “disability manifiested again while [Sones] was on the job, [LHC] would be in trouble.” On June 24, Sones was terminated and claims she was told she was let go for being a liability to LHC.
Although the Court held that Sones could not make her case for disability discrimination for the Field Nurse position because driving was an essential function of the position and Sones was inabile to drive, the Court held that questions existed regarding the Team Leader position. Therefore, a jury could conclude that Sones suffered from wrongful termination from the Team Leader position.
In their holding, the Court concluded that:
LHC failed to engage in the ADA-mandated process to consider reasonable accommodations. “Under the ADA, once the employee presents a request for an accommodation, the employer is required to engage in [an] interactive process so that together they can determine what reasonable accommodations might be available.” Chevron Phillips, 570 F.3d at 622. Given the relative infrequency with which she would have been required to drive, Sones’s proposed solutions were not so unreasonable that they absolved LHC of its statutory duty to at least discuss accommodation.
Therefore, while the district court properly concluded that the EEOC did not meet its prima facie summary-judgment burden to show Sones was qualified to serve as a Field Nurse, it erred in reaching the same conclusion regarding the Team Leader position. The disputed question of which position Sones actually held is material, precluding summary judgment on qualification. …
Sones expressly reached out to her supervisors, indicating that she wanted temporary help using computer programs and remembering her passwords in light of her high medication levels. Faced with Sones’s request for “extra help,” Taggard, her supervisor, kept silent and walked away. On this record, a reasonable jury could find that Sones reached out to LHC for accommodation and was denied an interactive process.
Ultimately, it is truly unfortunate to think that Sones may have been able to return to her position and competently function in the Team Leader role. Just a few months before her seizure, Sones’ employer thought highly enough of her performance to promote her. It would be nice if employers were required to take an Oath, similar to the one described above, to treat employees fairly without regard to things like race, gender, age, or disability. But until the “Hippocrates of employers” starts such a trend, employees should feel safe with the knowledge that Federal and State laws can be enforced if an employer does make an unlawful decision based on disability.
Although the events leading to Sones’ case took place in Mississippi, Ohio employees should know that the Americans With Disabilities Act and subsequent Amendments, in addition to Ohio statute R.C. § 4112.02(A) were enacted to prevent discrimination or retaliation by employers on the basis of an employee’s actual or perceived disability.
Having to live with a disability is difficult enough without worrying about the effect it may have on your job. If you are disabled or your employer perceives you as being disabled; and you have been fired, wrongfully terminated, discriminated against, demoted, wrongfully disciplined, denied wages, or even think that you might need a disability discrimination lawyer, then call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Call our Ohio employment law attorneys at 866-797-6040. The best option is not to wait. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm, and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disabled employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio employment law.
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