Registered Nurses With Disabilities: Legal Rights and Responsibilities
Leslie Neal-Boylan, PhD, APRN, CRRN, FAAN
& Michelle D. Miller, JD, MPH, RN
Purpose: The purpose of this legal case review and analysis was to determine what kinds of cases involving nurses with disabilities are typically brought to attorneys, which cases tend to be successful, and how and when a nurse with a disability should pursue legal action.
The review u sed the standard legal case analysis method to analyze legal cases that have been brought by registered nurses (RNs) with physical or sensory disabilities from 1995 to 2013. The cases span the period following the enactment of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990 through the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) of 2008.
A nurse attorney reviewed the background material to find every case involving an RN with a disability, excluding those with mental health disabilities or substance abuse issues. Case analysis was conducted using standard legal case analysis procedures. Fifty-six cases were analyzed.
The cases were categorized into five types of legal claims: (a) disability discrimination (84%); (b) failure to accommodate (46%); (c) retaliation (12.5%); (d) association (3.6%); and (e) hostile work environment (7%). The cases were largely unsuccessful, particularly those brought under the ADA instead of the ADAAA.
The case analysis revealed that several cases brought by RNs with disabilities using the ADA might have been successful under the ADAAA. In addition, the case analysis has provided vital information for administrators, leaders, and clinical nurses regarding when a case is appropriate for legal action. These findings from this review will help nurses recognize when they are being treated in a discriminatory way in the workplace, what their legal rights and responsibilities are, and at what point they should pursue legal action.
This review has relevance to all RNs working in clinical and academic settings who may have a congenital or acquired physical or sensory disability.
Angel Medical Center to Pay $85,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has settled a disability discrimination lawsuit with Angel Medical Center, Inc. of Franklin, NC. The hospital was charged with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by denying an employee an accommodation that would have allowed her to get cancer treatments while working full time. The hospital allegedly refused the accommodation request and then fired the nurse.
To learn more about the ADA and other laws that protect the rights of people with disabilities read “Disability.gov’s Guide to Disability Rights Laws.”
Meeting the Demands of an Expanding Health Care Workforce
If you’ve ever seen the “Because” public service announcement from the Office of Disability Employment Policy, you’ve seen Kayla Woolridge swim. While filming the PSA, Kayla, who has spina bifida and uses a wheelchair, got to chatting with my staff about her career goals. Although still a few years out from college, Kayla has been thinking about becoming a neonatal intensive care unit nurse. When I heard this, I thought how great it would be if she does indeed pursue that path — because the nursing industry is going to need her.
An Ordinary, Extraordinary Day
Beginning Monday, March 24th, 2014, businesses that work with the Federal Government will be required to set goals to employ people with disabilities at a rate of 7 percent and in doing so, keep track of their progress. The new law permits companies to invite employees to self-disclose a disability, allowing the company to conduct an internal census. With this data, companies can ensure their recruiting and hiring practices do not inadvertently exclude qualified candidates with disabilities. Employee are not required to disclose a disability.
This rule change stems from an effort to combat chronic unemployment of people with disabilities. Most recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that in 2012:
1) The unemployment rate for non-disabled Americans stood at 8 percent, but almost doubled to 15 percent for people with disabilities;
2) The workforce participation rate for non-disabled Americans was 31.6 percent, while 76.5 percent of people with disabilities in the same age group were out of the work force entirely;
3) Median household income for a person reporting a disability was $25,420, compared to $59,411 for someone without a disability“ These numbers remain unchanged over the past 40 years despite dramatic improvements in access to physical workplaces, technology, and policy,” says attorney David Newburger, co-director of Starkloff Disability Institute. “Many people with disabilities want to work but face barriers.”
Your pathway to career success. Tools to help job seekers, students, businesses, and career professionals Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor
Give Nurses in Wheelchairs a Chance
Alexandra Wilson Pecci, for HealthLeaders Media , December 10, 2013
Although some nurse leaders cling to the rigid requirements of the profession, others are making accommodations for nurses in wheelchairs, sending a powerful message to patients in the process.
A “walking interview” is one of the questionable—to say the least—tactics that one prospective supervisor used during a nursing job interview with Marianne Haugh.
“I had one walking interview…to see if I could handle their huge unit,” Haugh recalls, a note incredulity still present in her voice when she talks about it. Haugh was born with spina bifida, and although she can walk short distances, she relies primarily on a wheelchair to get around.
Americans with disabilities may be the best workers no one’s hiring
Walgreens actually prefers disabled employees because they’re more efficient workers, explains a new report
BY THE MONITOR’S EDITORIAL BOARD
Walgreens and now a report by the National Governors Association show businesses can benefit by seeing disabled workers not as charity cases but employees with uncommon qualities that can enhance profits.
Few people noticed, but last week marked the 23rd anniversary of the 1990 passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That landmark law is best known for mandating such conveniences as designated parking for people with disabilities, wheelchair ramps, and Braille on elevators. A whole generation has now benefited from it. But one thing has not changed very much for America’s 54 million disabled people: landing a job.
That may change with a report last week by the National Governors Association. It is called “A Better Bottom Line: Employing People with Disabilities.” Note the words “bottom line.” The report aims to help states support a trend in American business led by Walgreens. Since 2007, the drugstore chain has hired those with disabilities not out of magnanimous charity but for the competitive advantage in employing disabled workers.
Studies of Walgreens’s experience at a few distribution centers show disabled workers are more efficient and loyal than nondisabled workers. Absenteeism has gone down, turnover is less, and safety statistics are up. And the cost of accommodating such workers with new technologies and education is minimal.
More than 100 executives of major companies have toured Walgreens distribution centers where at least a third of workers are physically or mentally disabled. And last year, the US Chamber of Commerce committed to increasing the employment of people with disabilities by 1 million by 2015.
“Walgreens has shown that people with these disabilities can work alongside people without disabilities,” says Sen. Tom Harkin (D) of Iowa. “You can’t tell who is who and which is which.”
This isn’t just a business trend but a societal change in attitude. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, the recent head of the governors association and the leader behind the report, says employers must focus on a person’s ability rather than disability – or even on how a disability enhances a person’s employability. Many disabled workers are so grateful for a job that they work harder. Some industries, such as software and data testing, prefer workers with certain disabilities, such as autism, because of a person’s intense focus on detail.
Still, business needs a partner in government to make this shift. The report cites successes in several states in linking up disabled people with employers and tracking the benefits of hiring such workers. Teens who are disabled need help, beginning in middle school, to assess their skills and the industries that need them. The report advises states to approach businesses with a proposition on the value that disabled workers bring to shareholders, not with “an appeal to their corporate responsibility.”
“Businesses tell states that they do not want to hire a candidate to meet a state’s need,” according to the report. “They want to hire a candidate that meets the business needs.”
Walgreens now plans to have at least a quarter of its workforce consist of people with disabilities. Other companies are following in its path. They have plenty of people to pick from. Only 1 of 3 disabled adults is employed. Finding them is half the battle. State governments are best equipped to help in such recruitment.
The incentive for government to encourage this trend is strong. More than a third of people on income-based assistance are disabled. Studies show employing them raises tax revenue and reduces entitlement spending. But more than money is at stake. Disabled people simply want to be treated for the best they can offer – which might just be better than what a potential employer presumes.