Supervisors do not need to know Congress passed the amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 2008 because the Supreme Court’s narrow definition of disability resulted in the denial of protection for many people with impairments including cancer and epilepsy. Now the definition of a disability is broad. So broad, that many employers do not bother to determine whether the employee qualifies; they simply accommodate. Employers should take the time to determine whether an employee qualifies for protection under this law.
Supervisors need to protect their companies and their employees.
Supervisors do need to:
Here is a bright line supervisors cannot cross. Supervisors should be prohibited from medical conversations about the employee and the employee’s family medical history (Family history is related to Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act).
Supervisors should reply, “I cannot talk about those matters. Please let me know what I can do to help you perform your job. And be sure to talk to Human Resources about your other needs.”
Whether an employee tells you or you hear about it through others, HR needs this information. HR has specific legal obligations to meet.
Accommodations for an employee with a disability are designed to help the individual stay within the rules. And these accommodations are prospective. Employers do not take back discipline as an accommodation.
Supervisors are in a tough spot when co-workers see an accommodation of an employee with a qualified disability. Supervisors cannot divulge the employee’s medical information or accommodation. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission suggests, “ABC company is complying with the law” as the proper response. Another suggested response is, “We have a policy of assisting employees who encounter difficulties in the workplace.”
Employees seek attention and information from their supervisor. Supervisors need to know enough about employment laws to manage everyday situations in a legal and respectful manner. It is a difficult job!