There are several federal laws that protect individuals from discrimination based on recognized protected categories, including qualified disabilities. In particular, individuals with disabilities are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, also known as the “ADA.” Under the ADA, an individual is considered to have a disability if they meet one of several requirements, including having a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, having a record of such an impairment, or being regarded as having such an impairment. A recent case against a major airline company involved an employee terminated for having HIV.
Discrimination claims based on HIV status
A recent employment discrimination case filed against Delta Air Lines resulted in a $1.3 million award to the employee, which included $800,000 in punitive damages. According to the lawsuit, the airline refused to accommodate the employee who had been diagnosed with HIV and then terminated him based on that fact. This was considered a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Specifically, it was alleged that the employee was denied an accommodation when he became ill and his employer’s health insurance did not provide the medication he required. While he was out on leave due to his disability (HIV), he was terminated. After a nearly four-day jury trial, the jury found that Delta was knowing and reckless in its actions and awarded punitive damages.
Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against “qualified” individuals with disabilities with regard to employment decisions. The ADA applies only to employers with 15 or more employees. The prohibition extends to job application procedures, hiring and firing practices and policies, promotions, discipline, compensation, job training, and many other “terms, conditions, and privileges of employment. Along with prohibiting discrimination, the ADA requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to qualified employees whom they know have a disability. A reasonable accommodation is simply an adjustment or modification an employer provides to enable individuals with disabilities to have equal employment opportunities.
Violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act
Another case involving the ADA involved an employee being forced to destroy her medication and then terminating her for having a medical condition that requires that medication is clearly a violation of the ADA. In a case against a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise, terminated an employee after it was discovered that she was taking medication for bipolar disorder. According to the EEOC, the restaurant owner made obscene comments about the bipolar medication and forced her to flush the pills down the toilet. When the employee informed the owner that she still intended to take the medication, as her doctor had instructed her, she was terminated. These employment actions are discriminatory and a violation of the ADA.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation in the workplace, or if you have any other questions regarding your employment rights, please contact the experienced employment law attorneys at Wrady & Michel, LLC. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880. We are here to serve you!