DOJ: Training Key to ADA Compliance

I commend for your reading a blog post on the U.S. Department of Justice website. The subject: The perils of not training your supervisors on employers’ duty of reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The post by Deputy Assistant Attorney General Eve Hill for the Civil Rights Division recounts the experiences of a former Parks Maintenance Crew Leader with the city of North Las Vegas.

The condensed version of the story is that the ex-city employee, dubbed Mr. D. in the blog, has limited vision in one eye. The employer reasonably accommodated him for years, but then his new supervisor “unreasonably withdrew the long-time accommodation Mr. D needed to do his job and, as a result, he was forced out of work.”

Subsequent to his promotion to crew leader, even though the actual duties of the job didn’t change, the licensing requirements for the job were changed to include a commercial driver’s license. Except that Mr. D., because of his impairment, couldn’t qualify for a commercial driver’s license.

That was no problem at first as the city granted Mr. D an exemption from the requirement.

But eight years later, a new manager took over and told Mr. D. that he had to get a commercial driver’s license or face disciplinary action.

From the blog: “Mr. D. told the new manager about his accommodation because of his visual disability, and even got a new letter from his doctor to give to the manager.  In response, Mr. D. alleged, the manager again told Mr. D. he had to get the commercial driver’s license or face disciplinary action.  Fearing that he would lose his job and his pension, which he would be entitled to after only one more year of working for the city, Mr. D. felt forced to take an early retirement and paid out of pocket into the retirement system for his last year.”

The story had a happy ending, as the city, learning it faced a DOJ lawsuit, agreed to pay Mr. D. back the money he paid into the retirement system and compensate him for his emotional distress.  The city also agreed to train its supervisors so they understand their obligations under the ADA to help ensure that all employees with disabilities will be treated fairly.

This is a story about how a public employer strayed from the correct ADA path–but there is a lesson here for all employers.

Train your supervisors on the ADA!

Read the entire blog entry.

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