I have an employee with attendance issues requesting special accommodations (she has manic depression with anxiety and sleep-related disorders).  Are these conditions protected under the ADA?

Although the ADA protects anyone with a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activity, this does not automatically mean that all psychological conditions are qualified disabilities.  They still require a case-by-case analysis, as many mental impairments are treatable with medication.  (In this scenario, we’ll assume the employee has a doctor’s note requesting accommodations, despite any treatment already in place.)

Whether or not you are convinced the employee has a covered condition, it’s always recommended that you go through the “interactive process.”   This is a proactive process where you explore job resources, rescheduling, and/or equipment that may be amended to allow the employee to be successful without creating a financial hardship to the Company – and provide a proposal to the employee that you both agree meets her needs.  After the accommodations have been implemented, set performance expectations and follow-up with the employee regarding those expectations.  If you have made your best efforts to accommodate the employee and the attendance issues still remain, it may be time to draft a severance agreement and look for a replacement.  Please contact us before taking any such action though!
The IRS recently issued the 2014 optional standard mileage reimbursement rates available to those who operate an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.  Those rates are:

  • 56 cents per mile for business miles driven (2013 rate was 56.5 cents per mile)
  • 23.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes (2013 rate was 24 cents per mile)
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations (no change from 2013 rate)

For more details regarding the standard mileage rates, please visit the IRS site or contact us.
Look around and you may notice the “growing” trend of American adults, with more than one-third of US adults (35.7%) considered obese in 2010.  Although weight is not currently a protected characteristic under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, the 2008 amendments to the ADA may soon lead the courts to include morbid obesity as a disability.  Many employers have run into trouble involving morbidly obese employees, particularly when they need special accommodations to complete their job tasks.  So what should you do if you encounter such a predicament in your workplace?

First of all, you need to engage in what the ADA calls “the interactive process.”  This includes an exploration of how the job and/or its resources and equipment could be modified to accommodate the employee.   This will demonstrate a proactive approach in trying to find a solution.  You may also want to involve a doctor.  Provide him/her with the job description and let the doctor decide if the employee can perform the job duties, with or without accommodations.

In an article by Kristine E. Kwong titled “Obesity in the Workplace: A Disability You Must Accommodate?,” the following strategies were outlined for handling workplace obesity:

  1. Deal carefully with obese employees’ requests for accommodations. Conduct a timely and good faith interactive exchange with the employee to determine reasonable accommodations.
  2. Check in on your attitudes. Examine your disability policies and focus on training supervisors to deal with questions about obesity.  At the end of the day, employees must be able to perform the essential functions of their job, regardless of their outward characteristics.
  3. Promote wellness in the workplace. Efforts can be made to promote healthier habits among the employees such as losing weight or smoking cessation programs. Consider offering incentives for wellness programs in the workplace to increase participation.
  4. Prevent weight-based harassment. Be sensitive to obesity-related jokes, as they could lead to a disability harassment claim.
  5. Audit your hiring practices. Remember, although not all obesity-related conditions may quality as a medical condition under the ADA, some conditions may and it will affect your ability to hire and promote. When hiring and recruiting, focus on the applicant’s ability to perform the essential functions of the job.

For more information about handling ADA accommodations, please contact us.
With February approaching, it’s time to remind employers about the posting requirements for their OSHA Summary Form 300A (OSHA Log).

When to Post
The OSHA Summary Form 300A should be posted each year from February 1 to April 30.

Where to Post
The OSHA Summary Form 300A should be posted in a common area for all employees to see, such as a break room.

Who is Required to Post
All employers are required to post their OSHA Summary Form 300A, with the exception of the following:

  • Employers with 10 or fewer employees
  • Employers whose industries are exempt from OSHA’s recordkeeping and posting requirements

Go here for OSHA’s complete listing of exempt industries
When can employees expect to see their W-2 Forms? Many employees may soon be asking about W-2 forms.  According to IRS regulations, all employee W-2 forms must be mailed and postmarked no later than Jan 31, 2014.

As an FYI, the IRS is not planning to start processing any tax returns this year until January 31, 2014 due to the recent government shutdown,

If you have any questions, please contact us.