I’ve got a fever. And the only prescription is a large corner office.
I suddenly came down with this fever after reading about Jayne Feshold, who worked as a data technician at University Medical Center in Las Vegas.
Feshold didn’t have a fever, but she did have claustrophobia. So when her employers moved the eight-year employee into a standard office cubicle in 2007, she began suffering from debilitating anxiety.
She transferred to a security-related job, but that involved working in a cubicle as well. She was fired in 2008; the hospital claimed she could no longer do her job.
That same year, of course, The ADA Amendments Act of 2008 was added onto the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A significant change in this new set of definitions and regulations erased the distinction between “temporary” ailments and “permanent” disabilities.
Employers are now, in theory, required to make adequate accommodations for both.
Feshold’s resulting lawsuit against Clark County, Nevada was a good test for that theory.
She had two doctors’ reports that backed up her claim of claustrophobia, a recognized anxiety disorder. The county, once the amended ADA took effect on Jan. 1, 2009, had … very little.
On July 5, the county recommended a $150,000 settlement payment to Feshold.
Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak voted for the settlement, but not happily.
“This seems ridiculous on the surface,” Sisolak said. “I don’t want to open the floodgates. I can’t imagine there are any merits in this.”
Yet the floodgates are, to some degree, already open. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that ADA-related complaints involving anxiety disorders it received in 2010 are nearly triple those received in 2007.
About 20 percent of the 6,821 complaints the EEOC has received in the past 10 years were received in 2010 alone.
Other current cases include a cancer victim in Saint Paul, Minnesota, now deceased, who is the subject of a lawsuit filed by the EEOC vs. her former employer, Maxim Healthcare Services in Maryland.
Another one involves a Kentucky medical student who claims a reading disorder warrants additional time to complete the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam.
It should be noted that all of the cases to date involve public entities and are therefore likely to gain more public scrutiny; the ADA amendments have yet to be tested in a high-profile private sector case.
But by and large, the legal community has seen this coming. Disorders involving depression are the most worrisome for employers.
And, of course, claustrophobia.
My fever is getting worse. My reasonable accommodations are waiting, upstairs and down the hall.