Course Details

Obesity, Inflammatory Impairments & More: ADA And Leave-Related Obligations For Chronic Conditions

Webinar: ID# 1001425
About This Course:
Consider the following:
  • The EEOC obtained a $50,000 settlement on behalf of an employee for a thrift store that allegedly refused a reasonable accommodation and fired her because of degenerative joint disease.
  • A jury awarded $109,000 to an employee fired for seizure disorder in a case where the EEOC claimed that despite additional information from his doctors, he was never allowed to return to work.
  • The EEOC settled several cases on behalf of employees with morbid obesity where the employers' primary failure was terminating the employee without a timely and good-faith effort to evaluate potential accommodations.
About 40% of U.S. workers have at least one chronic ailment, and about 20% have two or more, including inflammatory conditions lasting a year or more such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. According to the CDC, the U.S. obesity rate increased almost 50% between 1997 and 2012, with every state up at least 20% in 2012. In fact, more than one-third of adults in the U.S. are considered obese. Last year, the EEOC determined that obesity by itself-without associated medical conditions-is a disability under the broad definitions in the expanded ADA Amendments Act.

You must be sure to follow legal standards for considering workplace accommodations before taking an adverse action against an individual where obesity and chronic conditions may be a factor in your decision. On the other hand, frontline leaders must be very careful not to "regard" an employee as disabled simply because he or she is overweight. The ADA may also require you to provide the employee with a reasonable accommodation, such as a change in scheduling, altering the way certain nonessential job duties are performed, or reassignments to a vacant position. FMLA questions involving reduced schedule or intermittent leave may also arise.

Clearly, it is more important than ever for you to understand your legal obligations so you can help prevent discrimination claims and accommodate employees with myriad conditions, ranging from obesity to inflammatory diseases, major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, and more.

Learning Objectives:
  • How to tell if a chronic illness qualifies for protection under the ADA
  • How to determine whether an employee's obesity is itself a disability; or rather, is the obesity resulting in other chronic inflammatory conditions such as joint pain, arthritis, or severe fatigue
  • Your obligations to engage in an "interactive process" with employees who have chronic conditions, including obesity, before concluding that the employee cannot perform his or her job
  • Danger zones in raising "safety" as a reason to remove a worker who is obese or has other chronic conditions without conducting an objective evaluation
  • The significant limits on an employers' defense of "imminent and substantial safety threat" in a disability discrimination claim by a chronically ill employee
  • Your obligations to provide "reasonable accommodations" for chronically ill employees under federal law
  • The key legal difference between chronic conditions and those impairments that are episodic or in remission
  • How to respond when an employee presents with a chronic illness, including dealing with ambiguous work restrictions from medical providers
  • How to balance your obligations under the ADA and FMLA, particularly for employees who require modified schedules for treatment associated with a chronic health condition
  • Why leave is a last resort and never a first option as an accommodation under the ADA
  • Tips on how to manage employees who experience episodic flare-ups with long-term or permanent mental health-related conditions, such as bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder
  • How to develop a strategy to assist an employee in performing his or her job duties effectively
  • Tips for managing the challenges associated with specific job functions that are most commonly impacted by chronic conditions or obesity
  • Do's and don'ts for frontline leaders and HR in addressing attendance and punctuality
  • How to ensure that you are properly addressing "regular and dependable attendance" when dealing with performance, discipline, and workplace accommodations
  • Why addressing performance issues promptly is so important for individuals with chronic conditions and how to coordinate performance management with a required interactive process when necessary
  • How to identify which job functions are really essential and what to do when workforce adjustments make a function that was marginal now essential
  • The obligation to conduct a continuous, interactive process whenever circumstances change and how that affects long-term accommodations for employees whose accommodations may no longer be reasonable
  • Proactive strategies for coping with coworkers' stress or resentment when reasonably accommodating an employee with a chronic illness requires team members to pitch in more than they want
  • Best practices for managing, tracking, and documenting intermittent leave concerns for those with chronic illnesses, including leave that runs seamless from one benefit year to the next
  • The impact that lifestyle and disease management wellness programs may have on your ability to help employees manage lifelong ailments and strategies for ensuring that your wellness program is lawful
About Your Presenter:

Attorney Patricia Eyres is the managing partner of Eyres Law Group, LLP, a specialized law practice focusing exclusively on helping employers in the areas of labor, employment, and education law. Her clients range from Fortune 500 companies to small businesses, school districts, and public agencies. In addition to guiding employers through the maze of risks associated with workplace discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims, she is an expert on return-to-work, reasonable accommodation, and leave of absence compliance.

As CEO/publisher of Proactive Law Press, LLC, Eyres supervises the production and publication of books, training materials, and educational products for business owners, managers, and trainers. She is the author of four books and 350-plus articles in trade and professional journals on proactive legal management of the workplace.

As founder and president of Litigation Management & Training Services, Inc., Eyres speaks internationally, consults with organizations on developing and enforcing effective policies, and trains managers to lead within legal limits. Her workshops focus on methods for preventing costly lawsuits or minimizing disruption when unavoidable claims occur.

Eyres has earned the National Speakers Association's Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation, the speaking profession's highest international measure of professional platform skill and proven professional achievement. She was named a Meeting Professionals International (MPI) Platinum Speaker for 2006-2007. MPI Platinum Speaker designation denotes the top-rated speakers at MPI national conferences based on audience interaction, content, delivery, humor, and professionalism. She is a frequent speaker at national and international conferences.
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