A recently settled lawsuit filed against Saint Clare’s Health, a division of Prime Healthcare Services, provides us the opportunity to discuss disability rights for individuals who have accepted a job offer but not yet started. In this case, Saint Clare’s Health hired a pregnant woman to be an EMS dispatcher at its Dover, New Jersey facility. Unfortunately, just a few days before her scheduled starting date, the woman was hospitalized due to preeclampsia. After the woman informed the employer of her condition and need to push back her start by a few weeks at most, Saint Clare’s Health responded by pulling the offer. Let’s look at the law that will apply to this case.
How do you prove a disability discrimination case under the ADA?
Best Disability Discrimination Attorney Answer: The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) prohibits discrimination “against a qualified individual on the basis of disability in regard to job application procedures, the hiring, advancement, or discharge of employees, employee compensation, job training, and other terms, conditions, and privileges of employment.” 42 U.S.C. § 12112(a). In order to maintain a disability discrimination claims under the ADA, an employee must initially present evidence that the employee (1) is disabled as defined by the ADA, (2) is a qualified to perform the central functions of the job, with or without accommodations, and (3) suffered an adverse employment action by the employer. Rossbach v. City of Miami, 371 F.3d 1354, 1356–57 (11th Cir.2004) (Best Law Read: What Is An Adverse Employment Action?). The ADA defines “disability” to include any one of the following (1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities of the employee, (2) a record of such impairment, or (3) being regarded as having such impairment by the employer. Once the employee meets this initial burden, the employer can state that the adverse action was take for a legitimate business purpose, but the employee then has the chance to prove that such stated business reason is false or did not actually motivate the employer, which the law call pretext. (Best Law Read: Employment Discrimination Question: What Is Pretext?). If the jury then finds that the employer’s stated reason is pretext, the employee wins the discrimination claim.
In this case, the pregnant woman is disabled. As she had not yet started, there was no indication that she was somehow not qualified, especially since the employer inherently admitted that she was qualified when it offered her the job. And pulling an offer is clearly and adverse employment action.
Further, there is no need for a pretext analysis as the employer made its decision expressly based on the impact of the identification of the disability and accommodation request.
Can a new job make me take a medical exam before I start?
Best Employment Lawyer Answer: Under the ADA, an employer may require a medical examination after an offer of employment is made and condition the offer on the results of the examination, as long as three requirements are met: (A) all entering employees are subjected to such an examination regardless of disability; (B) information obtained regarding the medical condition or history of the applicant is collected and maintained on separate forms and in separate medical files and is treated as a confidential medical record; and (C) the results of such examination are used in accordance with the ADA. See 42 U.S.C. § 12112(d)(3). (Best Law Read: Can My Boss Force Me To Take A Medical Exam?; When Can Employers Require Disabled Employees to Undergo Medical Exams?).
The results of the pre-employment medical examination can be used as a basis to pull an offer of employment only after the employer conducts an individualized determination establishing that the disability will prevent the so-to-be employee from performing the essential functions of the position. In Holiday v. City of Chattanooga, 206 F.3d 637, 643–44 (6th Cir. 2000), he United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held: “The ADA mandates an individualized inquiry in determining whether an employee’s disability or other condition disqualifies him from a particular position. In order to properly evaluate a job applicant on the basis of his personal characteristics, the employer must conduct an individualized inquiry into the individual’s actual medical condition, and the impact, if any, the condition might have on that individual’s ability to perform the job in question.” Likewise, in Garrison v. Baker Hughes Oilfield Operations, Inc., 287 F.3d 955, 960 (10th Cir.2002), the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held: “The results of a medical inquiry or examination may not be used to disqualify persons who are currently able to perform the essential functions of a job, either with or without an accommodation, because of fear or speculation that a disability may indicate a greater risk of future injury, or absenteeism, or may cause future workers’ compensation or insurance costs.”
Can I ask for a disability accommodation before I start my new job?
Best ADA Lawyer Answer: Yes. At any point during the employment or even before the designated start date, once an employee makes an initial disclosure of a disability, “the ADA requires the employer to engage with her in an ‘interactive process’ to determine the appropriate accommodation under the circumstances.” EEOC v. Sears, Roebuck, and Co., 417 F.3d 789, 804 (7th Cir.2005)(Best Law Read: What Is The Interactive Process For Disabled Employees?). The interactive process “imposes a duty upon employers to engage in a flexible … process with the disabled employee needing accommodation so that, together, they might identify the employee’s precise limitations and discuss accommodations which might enable the employee to continue working.” Hendricks–Robinson v. Excel Corp., 154 F.3d 685, 693 (7th Cir.1998). The interactive process has “give-and-take” aspects so that “if an employee has requested an appropriate accommodation, the employer may not simply reject it without offering other suggestions or at least expressing a willingness to continue discussing possible accommodations.” Sears, Roebuck and Co., 417 F.3d at 806.
In E.E.O.C. v. Am. Tool & Mold, Inc., 21 F. Supp. 3d 1268, 1285 (M.D. Fla. 2014), the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida addressed this situation when dealing with an accommodation request post-offer but before the start date and held: “the Court finds that Lakeside did not perform an individualized assessment of Matanic’s ability to perform the essential functions of the position. Consequently, the withdrawal of the offer of employment could not have been the result of an individualized determination that revealed an impairment that would have precluded Matanic from performing the essential functions of the position, and thus violated 29 C.F.R. § 1630.14(b)(3).”
In today’s example, the employer failed to engage in the interactive process at all and simply fired her without any consideration of what the few weeks delay would mean.
Can a delayed start date be a reasonable accommodation?
Best Employment Lawyer Answer: Yes, but that does not mean that it will always be a reasonable accommodation. Our disability employment lawyers have already discussed that time off can be a reasonable accommodation. (Best Law Read: Is Time Off A Reasonable ADA Accommodation?). In the same vein, delaying an employee’s start day also may be a reasonable accommodation depending on the circumstances. For example, an employer who has rolling start dates will have a hard to claiming that moving a start date back a week or two would be an undue burden. However, an employer who has set start dates to coordinate mass training for large numbers of employees at the same time or was hiring to staff up for a date certain event or deadline might be able to show that a delayed start date caused it an undue burden.
Again, the failure to engage in the interactive process stops Saint Clare’s Health from even making this argument.
What is a disability discrimination case worth?
Best Employment Lawyer Answer: Each case has to be evaluated individually and will depend on a lot of factors, including the salary for the position, the ability of the employee to mitigate by finding a new job, the venue where the case will be heard, weather the employee received any treatment for emotion distress, and many other factors. In our example, Saint Clare’s Health agreed to pay $77,550 to cover lost wages and other damages. Because every case will be evaluated differently for damages, it is important to consult with an employment law attorney to discuss the specifics of your case.
What should I do about disability discrimination on my job?
Best Ohio Employment Lawyer Answer: Staring a new job with a medical condition or disability is stressful. You are not alone. If your job offer was pulled when you employer learned that you are disabled or when your employer perceived you as being disabled; call the right attorney to schedule a free and confidential consultation. Do not wait to reach out to our lawyers in Cleveland, Columbus, Toledo, Cincinnati, Youngstown and Detroit to get help now. Spitz, The Employee’s Law Firm and its attorneys are experienced and dedicated to protecting disabled employees’ rights under ADA and Ohio employment law.
This employment law website is an advertisement. The materials available at the top of this page and on this employment law website are for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. If you are still asking, “how do I get a work accommodation on my new job for my disability?”, “am I considered disabled under the ADA?”, “what should I do if my job offer was pulled because I needed surgery” or “can my boss fired me for needing to push back my start date because of a medical condition”, it would be best for you to contact an Ohio attorney to obtain advice with respect to disability discrimination questions or any particular employment law issue. Use and access to this employment law website or any of the links contained within the site do not create an attorney-client relationship. The legal opinions expressed at or through this site are the opinions of the individual lawyer and may not reflect the opinions of The Spitz Law Firm, attorney, Brian Spitz or any individual attorney.