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How a work attendance policy can lead to disability discrimination

On Behalf of | Apr 28, 2023 | Employment Law

Disability discrimination comes in many forms, some of which are subtler and therefore more difficult to both identify and prove. A common cause of disability discrimination claims involves companies that won’t accommodate workers by providing assistive technology or changing their job functions. Such scenarios may culminate in a court battle wherein the company may claim that a particular accommodation request created an undue hardship or was not medically necessary, while the worker tries to establish that the company treated them unfairly.

All too often, companies don’t even try to hide one of the most discriminatory practices that could affect workers who have significant medical concerns. Harsh attendance policies, including no-fault attendance rules, can be a form of discrimination against workers with disabling medical conditions.

How no-fault attendance policies discriminate

Companies will often have rules about attendance that require that workers minimize the number of days they miss or shifts for which they are not present for the entire standard work day. The business may then adjust someone’s pay, denied promotions or even engage in disciplinary action, up to their termination, based on how many times they miss work.

Of course, someone with a disabling medical condition may have a very reasonable explanation for why they need to miss work. Someone with an autoimmune disorder might need to undergo chemotherapy treatments multiple times a year to keep their symptoms in check. Others may need to attend regular physical therapy sessions or dialysis treatments. If they violate the no-fault attendance policy by missing too many days, they will trigger disciplinary action.

Employers will then punish and possibly terminate those who have too many absences even when the reason behind those absences has protection under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The strict enforcement of attendance policies without regard to someone’s documented medical condition is potentially a form of disability discrimination that might lead to a claim from a worker denied fair consideration by their employer due to a health issue outside of their control.

Fighting disability discrimination benefits many

Those who speak up about an employer’s misconduct can sometimes get their job back or receive some financial compensation for the personal and professional setbacks they experienced. A successful disability discrimination claim will also often force a company to review its practices and change them so that they are more appropriate in their treatment of workers with disabling medical conditions.

Recognizing seemingly benign company practices as the hidden forms of discrimination that they actually are can inspire workers to seek legal guidance in an effort to secure justice.

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