It only keeps getting tougher!! Now the federal courts are making “Bonehead” decisions! Most employers assume, based on common sense, that they can terminate an employee for excessive tardiness. In a recent case, the court held that an employer violated the Americans With Disabilities Act when they terminated an employee for excessive tardiness when the employee’s punctuality was not found to be an essential function of the job. The employee was a paraplegic and argued that the employer should have provided a reasonable accommodation because the tardiness was directly related to his disability.
The court determined that although being on time was important to the job, there was no evidence that the employee needed to work with others to complete his work, or that his tardiness ever caused any detriment to the company, or that he ever failed to complete his work on time.
So now what? Ok, assuming that an employer has a policy in place regarding absenteeism and tardiness, and a manager or supervisor has an individual that is beginning to violate these policies, the warnings should state the policy being violated, why the behavior creates a problem (i.e. a receptionist who has to be on time to meet and greet visitors) and what they need to do to correct the problem (i.e. be on time). If the employee states that he or she has a disability that is creating the problem (you can always ask for a certificaton from a doctor) it is advisable to engage in an interactive discussion regarding a reasonable accommodation.
This decision, in my opinion, is very unusual and I would not enter into a panic mode. Have a policy in place and apply a common sense approach if there is a disability (watch pregnancy situations also especially if the person has not had an excessive absenteeism or tardiness issue before the pregnancy).