Friday, July 22, 2011

Claustrophobia + Cubicle = ADA Settlement = COTW #50

Claustrophobia: abnormal dread of being in closed or narrow spaces.

Cubicle: a small partitioned space; especially: one with a desk used for work in a business office.

What happens when an employee with claustrophobia works in a cubicle? Well, in the latest Case of the Week, it results in an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lawsuit. The Las Vegas Review Journal has the scoop on a $150,000 settlement arising from this combination of claustrophobia and cubicle.

The story discusses the impact of the ADAAA in cases such as this. The basic point being that anxiety attacks were previously viewed as temporary and therefore difficult to establish as disabilities. Under the new amendments of the ADAAA it is much easier.

The employee in this case was transferred to a position that required her to work in a cubicle which brought on severe anxiety. Per the article, "two doctors backed up her claim of debilitating claustrophobia" but the employer didn't do anything about it. The employee transferred to another position but was still in a confined space. She was eventually terminated, with management claiming she was unable to do her job.

Just another reminder for employers to make those good faith efforts and engage in the interactive process and all that other ADA-ish good stuff.

HT: Stephanie Thomas (@ProactiveStats) - Cubicle Walls Closing in on ADA Violation; and +Laura Woods who posted the story on Google+.

Posted by Philip Miles, an attorney with McQuaide Blasko in State College, Pennsylvania in the firm's civil litigation and labor and employment law practice groups.