Here is an interesting approach taken by the EEOC in a case recently settled in Minnesota. The facts, as reported by the EEOC, are as follows: an employer fired an employee when he sought to return to work after being hospitalized for a week. The employer based the termination on the employee’s failure to call in every day of his hospitalization. The EEOC alleged that the employer terminated the employee because it regarded him as having a disability. The employer settled the case for $50,000 and an agreement to revise its handbook and train and educate its employees about workplace discrimination, requesting a reasonable accommodation, and call-in procedures.
The EEOC press release does not include any information regarding what evidence was considered to conclude that the employer regarded the employee as disabled, or whether a policy requiring a daily call violates the ADA. Accordingly, the primary lesson to be learned from the settlement is to tread carefully when terminating an employee upon the employee’s return to work after being hospitalized. Employers should also make sure that if they have a policy that requires employees to call in everyday when absent, the policy is applied fairly, and modified appropriately for employees whose absences are covered by the Family Medical Leave Act or Oregon Family Leave Act.