Today’s question is: “We have an employee who is getting special treatment as an ADA accommodation. Her coworkers are complaining. What can we say to them?” In this special edition of the HR Daily Advisor Compliance Corner video blog, HR Daily Advisor editor Stephen Bruce talks to attorney Audra Hamilton from Tulsa, Oklahoma, about how HR managers can address this difficult question.
SB: This is Steve Bruce for the HR Daily Advisor. Today we’re talking to attorney Audra Hamilton from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Audra, our question today is:
We have an employee who is getting special treatment as an ADA accommodation. Her coworkers are complaining. What can we say to them?
AH: Well, it’s interesting because the ADA actually is a special accommodation law. That’s what it’s designed for. And employees who qualify as being disabled are entitled to special treatment. A common example is a person who has a mental impairment of some kind and needs some time to have a special room that they can work from, whereas before they were in a cubicle. Others employees see that and think ‘I don’t have my own office. I don’t have my own special room. Why is that happening?’
HR employees do get these questions quite a bit asking ‘Why don’t I get the special treatment?’ The problem is the ADA does not permit you to inform employees as to what the condition is of the other employee who has a medical condition or an impairment of some kind. And so you really have to be somewhat parental in a way and say:
‘That is not a concern of yours. I understand that you feel like that perhaps there is some special treatment going on. It’s not something for you to be concerned about. I can assure you that we’re following all rules and regulations as we should be and if there is a need that you have that you’d like to be addressed, we’d be happy to talk to you about that, but it’s not something you need to be concerned about.’
It’s a little bit of a parental way to talk to them, but unfortunately you can’t reveal anything more than that because it’s private medical information and it must be kept confidential.
SB: Thanks very much, Audra. This is Steve Bruce for the HR Daily Advisor.