All Articles Tagged "Americans With Disabilities Act"

New Report Highlights Discrimination Against Pregnant Workers

June 19th, 2013 - By Kimberly Gedeon
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While pregnancy results in a beautiful bundle of joy, it may also cause unemployment. Pregnant women who work in low-wage or male-dominated fields often wind up fired or coerced to accept unpaid leave, a report by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) says.

Personal stories featured in the report illuminates the discrimination experienced by expecting workers. One account illustrates how a pregnant food server at a fast food restaurant in Washington D.C. was reprimanded after she asked for permission to drink water while on the job. A Dollar Tree cashier on Long Island explained that she was not allowed to sit on a stool despite being pregnant.

“Women make up almost half of the labor force, but all too often they are forced to make an impossible choice: risk their own health and pregnancy to keep a job or lose their income at the moment they can least afford it,” says the vice president of the NWLC.

About 75 percent of women who are employed will be pregnant at least once in their lives. The workforce, however, is highly unaccommodating to pregnant women. Additional bathroom breaks, permission to sit, and permitting lifting restrictions are some of the menial adjustments expectant mothers’ request. But instead, employers see pregnant women as liabilities or hindered workers and remain rigid.

Even workers with similar limitations on the job are treated better than pregnant women. “For example, in many workplaces, while a back injury preventing a worker from lifting is accommodated, a lifting restriction arising out of pregnancy is a basis for termination,” the report adds.

Employers often misinterpret the protections provided to pregnant women under the American Disabilities Act of 2008. The amendment expanded the meaning of “disability” to include workers with temporary injuries or impairments, reports CBS News. In theory, this should also include pregnant women who often experience severe nausea and hypertension, but in practice, it does not.

Because of ambiguous laws regarding the protection of employed pregnant women, some workers are forced to lose their income at a time they need it the most. One pregnant truck driver in Maryland used up all her paid sick days; she wound up losing her health insurance. Unfairly, truck drivers with disabilities were always accommodated.

This report is lobbying to push Congress to instate a new federal law, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, to provide clear and comprehensible legislation for employees to permit “reasonable accommodations to pregnant workers who need them,” the NWLC report notes.

Only eight states currently have laws that cater to working pregnant women: Alaska, California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland and Texas.

Court Finds Abercrombie & Fitch Company Hollister Violated Americans With Disabilities Act

May 21st, 2013 - By Tonya Garcia
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Frank Rumpenhorst/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Frank Rumpenhorst/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images

Ugh… Abercrombie & Fitch again!

Actually, this time it’s Abercrombie’s company Hollister that’s stepped in it. A federal judge has ruled that the company violates the Americans With Disabilities Act with its porch front stores and blocked ramps.

“A company spokesman said that the raised entrances were designed to create ‘an entry to a house in Southern California that you would walk up onto the porch or walk down into the porch, to enter, like you would do at a beach house,'” reports The Daily Mail.

Julie Farrar, who is in a wheelchair, tried to enter a Hollister store in Colorado. There are stairs out front, but the retailer says there are ramps off to the side. Unfortunately, the doors that those ramps lead to are blocked by tables inside the store. And, Farrar says, going through a side door isn’t fair. (Indeed.) “She said that in school using a wheelchair meant she was effectively segregated from other students. She remembers her family being asked to leave restaurants, movie theaters and shops because she ‘was considered a fire and safety hazard,'” quotes Jezebel.

The case ultimately goes back to 2009 when both Hollister and Abercrombie were sued by several people for violation of the Act. Since then, the only store remaining from the original suit was one in Colorado (others in the state have since increased wheelchair accessibility). Then it turned into a class action suit in 2012 against 248 Hollister stores in the US. The company was ordered to bring the stores up to compliance and, in three months, hadn’t.

The message we get from these repeated stories of discrimination and bad policy: Abercrombie and Hollister just don’t see anything wrong with being jerks.

Is It Fair? Cancer Victim Let Go Twice For Missing Work During Treatment

May 21st, 2012 - By Brande Victorian
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Cancer is only half the battle Connie Robinson has had to fight in the past three years. Since being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009 and experiencing a relapse in 2010, the Virginia resident says she has been let go from two jobs due to her illness and now she’s struggling to pay bills.

Before her diagnosis, Robinson was promoted to employment specialist for an organization in the Richmond area in 2008. Things were going great for the woman who felt she had finally landed her “dream job,” but in October of the following year she felt a lump and was informed it was cancerous. Interestingly, Robinson, who has a strong family history of cancer, was more worried about her career than her health.

“I didn’t know why, but I was really concerned about my job. I was worried I was going to lose my job,” she told

Though the treatment was successful, Robinson’s worst fear came true when she was fired from her job during her final week of chemotherapy. In a severance letter, Robinson was informed that her time allotted under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) had run out. According to federal law, employers are required to provide employees job-protected and unpaid leave for qualified medical and family reasons including personal or family illness. Robinson’s letter stated she was allowed twelve calendar weeks of unpaid leave in a rolling 12-month period, and by December 14, 2009, she had exhausted all available days.

“I worked even when I was sick and it’s like it didn’t matter. You don’t matter,” Robinson said.

Though her job had been given to someone else, Robinson’s previous employer encouraged her to re-apply to the non-profit where they received a grant to fund her position. Three months later the non-profit hired her but history repeated itself when in May 2010, Robinson felt another lump. After surgery and chemotherapy, she was declared cancer-free by the fall of that year. But when she was ready to return to work, there was no position for her.

Employment attorney Harris Butler says laws provide minimal protection for employees, especially in cases of temporary positions.

“If the employer wants to let you go, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it,” said Butler. “It’s really unfortunate.”

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) offers some protection for those who work for a small business with 15 or more employees, but the coverage lasts for only a certain period of time and Butler says when it expires there are no guarantees. Both ADA and FMLA allow you to appeal a firing if you feel you’ve been discriminated against because of your illness. Under FMLA  you have 300 days or 10 months to appeal, ADA only gives you 180 days. Butler says it can be hard to go through the process while you’re fighting a life-threatening disease and Robinson is a testament to that, as she missed the deadlines for appeal. Now she spends her days trying to find new employment.

Although Robinson says she felt guilty at first for undergoing chemo treatment, she now wants to remind other cancer patients of what’s important.

“Go through your treatment, fight through the cancer, and then fight for your life,” she said.

Hopefully Robinson wins this battle too.

What do you think about her situation? Was she let go fairly?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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Another Burger King Mess: Manager Fired After Disclosing HIV Status

May 8th, 2012 - By Brande Victorian
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Burger King could be in serious trouble soon if allegations against one of its Virgina restaurants turn out to be true. Christopher Peña, 35, a former manager and seven-year Burger King veteran, says he was unfairly let go from the company last September, three months after he disclosed his HIV status to a supervisor.

Burger King’s official reasoning for firing Christopher on September 19, 2011 was “poor work performance” despite the manager’s claim of not having ever been disciplined before disclosing his HIV status. After though, Christoper said he received disciplinary action, along with several critical emails after one of the nine restaurants he oversaw failed an audit and others had service problems. Christopher and his lawyers claim his dismissal violates the Americans with Disabilities Act which prohibits discrimination based on disability and covers people who are HIV positive.

Burger King did not respond to The Huffington Post’s requests for comment and the company has not yet filed a response in court to the manager’s complaint. Victor Viramontes, a lawyer for Christopher and senior counsel at the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said discrimination against Latinos who are HIV-positive is a serious problem in the workplace.

“When they’re fired from their job, they frequently lose their healthcare with it,” he said.

Christopher wrestled with the decision of whether to tell his superiors about his status once he found out he was HIV-positive in April 2011. He said he eventually told one manager in June 2011 because he felt they should know in case side effects from his medicine caused him to need time off work. He said he was hoping for support, especially since he knew other managers in corporate restaurants, not franchises, who had the same issues with the stores they oversaw.

“It was a very personal decision that I thought about before I did it,” Christopher said. “I was looking more for guidance and support, and that’s why I did it.”

“After I disclosed, I was not the only person in my position who had these types of incidents occur in their restaurants, and I was the only one who was being treated this way.”

Christopher remains unemployed despite going on several interviews since his firing. His lawyer said his office took up Chris’s case particularly because of his long history of good-standing with Burger King.

“The fact pattern is very troubling, particularly against a large corporate entity like Burger King,” he said. “We wanted to step in and send a message to employers that this is inappropriate.”

Do you think Christopher will win this suit?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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