Minnesota readers may have questions about what type of disabilities qualify for protection against employment discrimination and wrongful termination under federal and state law. A recent disability discrimination lawsuit brought by a Minnesota worker in the restaurant services industry provides context.
In his complaint, the 30-year-old restaurant server claims he had worked for Bar Louie, a restaurant and bar in the Uptown neighborhood of Minneapolis, for about a month without incident. However, that goodwill quickly dissipated after he requested an accommodation in a few shifts so that he could adjust to new HIV medication.
The server took a few days off, but says he found that he was no longer on the schedule when he tried to return to work. He further claims that he was not placed back on the work rotation until he filed a lawsuit, alleging disability discrimination. The restaurant also allegedly did not cooperate with his request for documentation needed to maintain his health insurance.
A lawyer for the restaurant claims that management believed the server had quit. The lawyer also asserts that the business does not discriminate and abides by applicable employment laws, such as the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
Both federal and state disability laws take a functional approach to the definition of disability. The ADA defines a disability as an impairment — physical or mental — that substantially limits one or more life activities. Persons with HIV may qualify under that definition if they have severe physical symptoms or associated conditions, even if asymptomatic. For such a qualifying worker, an employer is expected to provide reasonable accommodations that will enable that worker to perform his or her job duties. A flexible work schedule might be such an example.
Source: startribune.com, “Lawsuit: Mpls. server claims he was fired for being HIV-positive,” Abby Simons, April 16, 2013.