Home Is Where the Work Is. Commuting to work can be difficult for employees with certain disabilities. That was certainly true for a Ford sales employee, who suffered from irritable bowel syndrome. The employee asked her managers if the company could accommodate her condition by allowing her to work flexible hours from home. Ford denied the request because the employee needed to participate in group meetings and have customer contact during normal business hours. Ford offered the employee other accommodations, like an office closer to the bathroom or another job within the company, but the employee rejected Ford’s suggestions. The Sixth Circuit did too. It held that Ford may have violated the ADA when it failed to allow the employee to telecommute. The decision suggests that workplaces are no longer tied to a specific location. You may want to consider that when evaluating an employee’s accommodation request.
Game of Phones. We’ve all seen it. People blankly staring at their smartphones while texting at the speed of light. But sometimes new technology conflicts with a company’s policy. For instance, a policy for a medical facility required employees to speak directly with their manager when they needed to miss work. Instead of calling, one employee sent her manager a text about an upcoming absence. The employee didn’t call or respond to several voicemails from the company over the next few days, so the company fired the employee for job abandonment. Although the employee accused the employer of violating the ADA and FMLA, the court held that the employee failed to follow the company’s established call in procedures, and dismissed the employee’s claims. The lesson is clear. While technology may offer convenience, employers can still enforce a well-drafted policy.
Workplace Health and Safety
Sometimes Retro Goes Out of Style. Ohio is one of a handful of states that uses a retrospective workers’ compensation payment model, where employers pay for coverage after they receive it. That’s about to change. The BWC plans to adopt a prospective payment model where it collects premiums before offering coverage. This new model will save private employers approximately $28 million and public employers about $16 million. It will also offer employers the option to make up to 12 installment payments, as well as give employers earlier opportunities to enroll in incentive programs. Get ready. The new model will begin on July 1, 2015 for private employers and January 1, 2016 for public employers.
Ohio Employers to Receive Workers’ Compensation Credit. We all know that refunds are a good thing. But a $1.2 billion refund? Well, that’s a very good thing. The Ohio BWC recently approved a $1.2 billion credit for Ohio private employers and local governments. The credit will be disbursed in the spring of 2015 and will aid the BWC in its transition to the new prospective billing model. BWC Administrator/CEO Steve Buehrer believes the credit will facilitate a smooth transition for employers to a more user-friendly system that will provide more flexibility while reducing overall costs. And there is more good news. Private employers will receive eight months of credit while public employers will receive 12 months of credit.
Some Companies Don’t Accept Visa. Can a company refuse to hire an F-1 student visa holder because the candidate will only have a work authorization for three months without engaging in citizenship status or national origin discrimination? According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the answer is yes and no. F-1 visa holders are not protected from citizenship status discrimination. An employer can ask whether an applicant requires sponsorship now or in the future without violating the anti-discrimination provision’s prohibition against citizenship status discrimination. But be careful. All work-authorized individuals are protected from national origin discrimination under the anti-discrimination provision. That means, anyone who believes they were not hired because of their country of origin, accent, or appearance can allege discrimination on that basis.