The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) is intended to protect injured and sick employees from arbitrary actions by their employers. Such actions can include termination, reductions in salary, or discriminatory treatment in the workplace. Sometimes, the evidence of such discrimination is vague and difficult to establish; other times, the evidence is obvious. In a recent case commenced by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a termination letter sent to an employ who had received a positive test result for cancer was alleged by the EEOC to show discriminatory intent.
The female employee in question was a title clerk at a Sacramento car dealership. After missing work for several days, the woman told her supervisor that she was undergoing tests to determine if she had cancer. She said that she planned to return to work in a few days.
Shortly after informing her supervisor about the cancer testing, the woman received a termination letter from her employer that said that her termination was not performance related and that she should “’focus on her health.’” A lawyer for the EEOC said that an employer may not “reflexively” discharge an employee after learning of a health condition. The termination letter was determined to be proof of discriminatory intent because it relied only on the employer’s perceptions and not on any objective proof of diminished workplace performance.
What does the ADA say?
The ADA prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee because of a “perceived disability” when the perception is based upon knowledge that the employee is suffering from a medical condition. The ADA was amended in 2008 to allow employees to seek compensation for discrimination if the employer is shown to have merely regarded the adverse medical findings as a disabling condition. The employer must prove that the employee is in fact suffering from a disability and that the disability affects the employees work performance.
Anyone who believes that they were the object of workplace discrimination based upon an employer’s supposition, rather than provable facts, may wish to consult an experienced employment law attorney. A capable lawyer can provide an evaluation of the evidence and provide an opinion on the likelihood of recovering damages.