Illegal discharge after cancer diagnosis (& chemo), ADA & FMLA protection for long-haul COVID, religious exemption from mandatory COVID vaccination, limits of condo/HOA rule enforcement, and more in Our Social Media Posts This Week, Sept. 12-18, 2021.

Below is a review of the posts (on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter) from the past week. You can check out the full posts by clicking on the links.

auto crusher settles eeoc suit over disability discrimination

In the post on Sunday 9/12/21 we learned that K&L Auto Crushers settled an EEOC disability discrimination suit. The agency filed suit on behalf of an employee who immediately notified the owner after she was diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer (and the estimated length of her chemo treatment). Soon after, the owner changed the course of her employment. How? See the post. When the employee asked for accommodations, the owner refused and fired her. But when did it tell her she was fired? See the post. The EEOC filed suit after conciliation filed on the charge of violating the ADA. Well, K&L agreed to settle, paying in $90,000 and other non-monetary relief as noted in the post (which should help other employees going forward).

fmla & ada protection for long-haul covid

TAKEAWAY: Had the employer engaged in the required interactive accommo-dation process, this suit might not have been necessary. Know the law – and follow it.

The post on Monday 9/13/21 noted that lingering COVID-19 symptoms (long-haul COVID) may trigger ADA and FMLA protection. President Biden even recognized this, so you need to know the law! The post has a link to the CDC’s list of the most common post-COVID symptoms, including increased respiratory effort, fatigue, and MANY more. So how should employees respond when an employee with long-haul COVID requests an accommodation? Just like any other disability or impairment. The employee may ask for leave, whether intermittent or in blocks of time. If the employer is subject to the FMLA (the criteria are noted in the post), then provide the FMLA leave form to the employee. Then follow the other steps noted in the post. And what if the employee seeks an accommodation other than leave? Follow the ADA interactive accommodation process including those steps noted in the post.

TAKEAWAY: Know the law, document what is (or is not) done and why, and consult an employment lawyer to keep you on the right side of legal.

condo association and city in court over unpaid water bills

The post on Tuesday 9/14/2021 told us that a water bill dispute between the Ritz Carlton residences and City goes to court. Yes, this was in Baltimore, but a good reminder to ensure that your association is timely paying all bills. So what happened? It all started in the mid-2000s when the pricey project of 192 units was built. Apparently the association was never billed for all of its water usage which came to light in 2019. The attorneys for the association and City began negotiating. What the City claimed is due, and for what period of time (amazing!) is in the post. When the association disagreed, the City provided a revised amount ($420,000 less). The parties could not agree, so the City filed suit in June. It noted, in part, that there were 3 water meters for the association, but only 2 were hooked up to send readings to the City, such that the third one – for the residences – was not billed. The association denied that it knew about the unbilled usage.

TAKEAWAY: Make sure that your Association is receiving and paying all bills for which it is responsible so there will be no huge surprise – or possible special assessment – down the road.

validity of church religious exemption letters from covid vaccine mandates

The post on Wednesday 9/15/21 reminded us that church “religious exemption” letters against COVID vaccination mandates likely will not work. Confused about what this refers to? Churches in some states, including California and North Carolina, are offering their congregants documents for religious exemption from COVID vaccination. Why? Because of employer and school mandatory vaccination policies. The basis espoused by many of them (see the post) is contrary to the current status of the vaccines and FDA approval.  Note that conservative evangelical Christians tend to be overly represented among those hesitant to be vaccinated and those refusing vaccination, contrary to the position of the pope and Catholic church (detailed in the post). Most lawyers doubt the legality of what one law firm has on its website related to these religious exemption forms; see the post for more on this. The forms alone are insufficient for an exemption from a vaccine mandate  as explained in the post and probably will help none but perhaps the one denomination noted in the post. So how does an employer proceed in the face of an exemption requested for religious reasons? See the post (including what can happen if the employer finds the claimed reason to be based on something other than religion).

TAKEAWAY: Again, you must know the law and any exceptions (in this case exemptions) from its requirements; get legal assistance if needed.

nlrb charges home depot with violation arising from dress code & apron policy enforcement

In the post on Thursday 9/16/21 we saw that Home Depot discriminated against a BLM supporter – an effect of the NLRA on ALL workplaces. Pay attention. This comes to us from the NLRB. You probably think the Act and Board’s decisions only apply to unionized workplaces. You would be incorrect. There are certain sections of the Act that apply to ALL workplaces. So, what happened here? An employee displayed a BLM slogan on his apron. And what did Home Depot do relative to its dress code and apron policy? See the post. And why do you care about this? Because the NLRB said issues of racial harassment directly impact the working conditions of employees. Home Depot’s initial response is also noted in the post (as is the current status of a similar suit by Whole Foods’ employees).

TAKEAWAY: Regardless of which law might be implicated, don’t take adverse action against employees based on a protected characteristic including race.

hoa wants uniformity; owner wants to save water. how the “battle” plays out.

The post on Friday 9/17/21 told us the HOA wants uniformity but the owner who wants to save water fights back. What would happen in your condo or homeowner association? Ever heard of a hellstrip? We bet you have, but you just didn’t know the name for it. It is the narrow strip of grass (usually, but sometimes soil or rocks) between the curb and sidewalk. Angela, a homeowner who is also a master gardener, chose various grass and plants for her hellstrip. Upon initial planting there is a mound of soil, but it settles out. The homeowners’ association cited her for a rule violation. What the HOA wants her to do is in the post. What Angela wants to do is save water. She even pointed out the applicable law, but the HOA continued down the same path (see the post). Angela tried to work things out with the Association so all would be happy, but to no avail. So how will this end? Angela knows – see the post.

TAKEAWAY: Rules are enforceable, but there are also possible ways for owners to be in compliance that the Association may not have thought of when the rule was enacted. Engage a competent community association lawyer to assist you.

eeoc sues applebee’s for race and sexual orientation discrimination

Finally, in the post yesterday 9/18/21, we saw that the EEOC sued an Applebee’s franchise for race and sexual orientation discrimination. Yep, not so neighborly. The lawsuit was filed August 12th. It alleges that the business subjected a Black line cook to a hostile work environment (based on his race and sexual orientation) and retaliated against him when he complained. And on what were those allegations based? Constant racial and homophobic slurs flung around the workplace and much much more as noted in the post (so sad that this is happening in the 21st century and well over a year after the Supreme Court’s Bostock decision!). The employee eventually quit and filed a charge with the EEOC. Conciliation failed so the EEOC sued. Stay tuned.

TAKEAWAY: Don’t take adverse action against an employee (or applicant) based on race or sexual orientation (or any other protected characteristic). You may find the person supported by the EEOC or other governmental agency and knocking on your door for more than a lot of money.

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