Tag Archives: Americans with Disabilities Act

ACDHH's Healthcare Providers Education Program Teaches Importance of "Listening"

ACDHH's Healthcare Providers Education Program Teaches Importance Of “Listening”

When it comes to your healthcare, the difference between life and death can be decided in a moment’s notice. Clear communication between a patient, his/her family and healthcare provider is crucial to making the best assessment, treatment and diagnosis. But what if a healthcare worker can’t communicate with an individual?

There are more than 700,000 deaf and hard-of-hearing people living in Arizona, many of whom are seniors and at a higher risk for needing medical care. That’s why the Arizona Commission for the Deaf and the Hard of Hearing (ACDHH) has launched a new educational program to help healthcare providers give better service to patients who are deaf or hard of hearing.

The goal of ACDHH is to make sure that deaf and hard of hearing Arizonans receive the same quality of service as the hearing population, and that involves working with the hearing population to become more understanding of the techniques needed to communicate with deaf or hard-of-hearing patients.

Not only is it the responsibility of a healthcare provider to learn to better interact with deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals, it’s the law. Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities, regardless of the provider’s size or number of employees. And while it is unrealistic to expect every doctor’s office, emergency room or other healthcare office to have a licensed interpreter, the Healthcare Providers Curriculum provides valuable information on how to meet these requirements without threatening the livelihood of the business.

The Healthcare Providers Curriculum three- to six-hour training program includes:

  • Techniques and guidelines for effective communication between the hearing and non-hearing population
  • Introduction to equipment a person with hearing loss may use to communicate
  • Information on accessing certified American Sign Language interpreters
  • Information on tax credits and incentives available for businesses who make accommodations in compliance with ADA
  • Designation that the staff has been trained in this program
  • Certification for all staff that participate in the program (CEU may be available)

ACDHH is targeting emergency room staff, patient admissions and family services, but provides information to all members of the healthcare industry.

For more information about ACDHH and/or to schedule a Healthcare Providers Curriculum presentation, please visit acdhh.org or call (602) 542-3323.

physical discrimination

“The Beauty Bias” Brings To Light Physical Discrimination In The Workplace

Hypothetically speaking, if Jennifer Aniston was competing against Susan Boyle for an office job and had the exact same resume, who would be more likely to score gig?

And what if Aniston had less experience than musically-gifted but regular-looking Boyle?

According to “The Beauty Bias,” written by Stanford law professor Deborah Rhode, nearly 60 percent of hiring managers would take Aniston — experience or not. This study brings to light a bigger issue: different types of physical discrimination based on a person’s looks.

And it isn’t simply an issue among women.

“The Beauty Bias” also reports that over the course of a handsome man’s lifetime, he will on average make $250,000 more than his less-attractive male co-workers. Tall counts, too, with taller people making more than $700 more per year than those of average height.

One great example of our natural bias to beauty – even in males – is the infamous Richard Nixon/John F. Kennedy presidential debate in the 1960s. Radio listeners, who couldn’t see the handsome, tan Kennedy and sweating, older, shorter Nixon, were sure Nixon had won the debate. However, audiences who viewed the debate on their televisions were positive Kennedy was the victor.

But can this really be seeping into our offices?

Yes.

Approximately 12 to 14 percent of workers say they’ve suffered some sort of appearance-based discrimination on the job.

There are some out there, however, who are making a very convincing case that this sort of physical discrimination has serious and wide-spread consequences — and that there should be a way to fight back.

Today, there are even some cities, like San Francisco, with laws in place to fight what may be considered this type of discrimination. And, whether there are laws in place or not, there are those out there winning lawsuits and some out there wasting time with frivolous lawsuits based on several types of (what they consider) physical discrimination.

Most often, sex discrimination and age discrimination are issues in these types of lawsuits, especially if the potential or current employee can show he/she was overlooked for a job or promotion by a hiring manager or business specifically seeking a young, attractive individual of a specific sex. Some take it further, arguing that what may be construed as “unattractiveness” is a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

However, the following features are NOT considered disabilities:

  • Height
  • Weight
  • Eye color
  • Hair color

That being said, extreme obesity that results from some physiological disorder, such as hypertension or a thyroid condition, and deformities are both exceptions to the rule and can both potentially be covered under the ADA.

Another exception to the rule? If you have a job – perhaps as a dancer or model – where looks are meant to perform a specific function of the job, discrimination is out.

So where is the happy medium?

If you have average looks, will you settle for an average life?

Are you doomed for life because of the way you look, good or bad?

Honestly, that is a question you have to answer for yourself. And sometimes, although noting that looks do play a part, maybe you didn’t get that job or promotion for many reasons. Not everything is based on having a flat stomach or Brazilian blowout.

For more information about physical discrimination in the workplace, please visit laborlawyers.com.

office fragrances

Office Fragrance’s Becoming Real Issue

Office fragrance is becoming a real issue.

Asthma.

Fragrance sensitivity.

Allergies.

It may sound “rash,” but many types of fragrances in the workplace can trigger anything from breathing issues to hives to nausea to headaches — and everything in-between. These reactions can be so bad, in fact, lawsuits are being filed — and won — by suffering employees.

Case in point, in 2010 a city planner in Detroit won a substantial settlement against her employer under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In addition, this led the employer to adopt a strict “no-scent” policy office-wide.

How did it come to this?

These lawsuits typically arise because employees feel their sensitivity to fragrances disable them, and the workplace has done nothing to attempt to reasonably accommodate them.

But how do you determine if fragrance sensitivity is a disability? And how do you handle the awkward situation in the office?

First, determine if the employee(s) suffering does, in fact, have protection under the ADA.

This is a sometimes tricky situation because, according to the ADA, there is no one list of conditions protected under the act. Rather, there is a definition that a person must meet to qualify: A person has a disability if he/she has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities, a record of such impairment, or is regarded as having such an impairment.

If the employee or employees do not specifically fall under this act, some questions you can ask internally to help determine the degree of the issue:

  • Has the employee met previously about the issue with anyone in human resources?
  • Does it appear to be a seasonal or everyday issue for the employee?
  • Is the employee showing physical or mental signs of distress based on the sensitivity?
  • Are these sensitivities limited work production?
  • Are there resources that can be made available to implement any types of accommodations?

If you determine the employee does, in fact, have a legitimate claim, there are several steps to take.

Most often, employers first look into simply moving the fragrance-sensitive employee and the employee(s) using excessive fragrance farther away from each other in the office. In other instances, employers ask their employees to voluntarily refrain from wearing or using fragrances at work. If taking this route, however, one must be crystal clear on fragrances.

For example, are scented candles allowed? And what about scented deodorants? Or lotions?

It is also important to never blame one or a few complaining employees, as that opens them up to office embarrassment and potential harassment, causing a litany of new issues in the workplace.

In some cases, one can also look into a fragrance sensitivity training session for the office to help educate everyone on the degree of stress scents may be causing co-workers.

Some additional accommodation ideas may include:

  • Testing and improving the overall air quality in the office.
  • Modifying work schedules or allowing telecommuting.
  • Providing air purification systems for sensitive employees.

In some extreme instances, the employer may have to develop a “no fragrance” policy in the office, complete with punishments for employees who continue to wear or use scents in the workplace.

The good news?

It usually doesn’t come to that.

In fact, according to the rule itself, all activities performed on behalf of the suffering employee must be reasonable to the employer as well. As such, drastic tactics that may hinder the office, such as a no fragrance policy, are often unnecessary.

The best way to handle the situation?

Sit down and listen to the employee’s issues, determine a plan of action together, document it for all parties involved, and follow up with the employee regularly.

For more information about office fragrance lawsuits, no fragrance policies and the other topics discussed in this column, call (602) 281-3406 or visit laborlawyers.com.