Last month, in EEOC v. Ford Motor Company, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals (covering Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan) held for the first time that employers may be required to permit employees to telecommute as a reasonable accommodation for a disability. While the decision is not binding on employers in the Third Circuit (covering Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware), the case is significant for employers within the Sixth Circuit’s jurisdiction and beyond as it clearly signals a willingness to expand the traditional concept of what constitutes an employer’s “workplace” as modern technology continues to evolve.
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Beginning today, March 24, 2014, federal contractors and subcontractors have a number of new responsibilities. Contractors already have the existing obligation to collect demographic data regarding race and gender and take affirmative action to recruit, hire, and retain qualified minorities, women, individuals with disabilities, and protected veterans. Now contractors must take additional steps to recruit and hire individuals with disabilities and protected veterans, including the collection of data related to the status of applicants and employees as protected veterans and individuals with disabilities.
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The Third Circuit Court of Appeals recently issued a decision holding that an employer’s termination of an employee for violating a very broad and restrictive return to work agreement (RWA), which prohibited the employee from all drug and alcohol use during both work and personal time, was lawful.
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The U.S. Supreme Court issued a rare unanimous decision earlier this week finding that employee benefit plans can set reasonable time limitations on when a plan participant may bring a lawsuit seeking plan benefits – even when the time limitation is shorter than what would otherwise be permitted under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (ERISA) and analogous state statutes.

In Heimeshoff v. Hartford Life & Accident Ins. Co., Case No. 12-729 (Dec. 16, 2013), Petitioner Julie Heimeshoff, a long-term Wal-Mart executive, began to suffer from a multitude of ailments caused by fibromyalgia. As a result, in August 2005, she filed a claim for disability benefits with the plan administrator for Wal-Mart’s disability plan – Hartford Life & Accident Insurance Co. On December 8, 2005, after considering the medical evidence offered by Ms. Heimeshoff, Hartford denied her claim for failure to provide sufficient proof of loss.
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As expected, new U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Thomas Perez has wasted little time implementing a number of agenda items in the few short weeks since his Senate confirmation. Secretary Perez announced two new rules that amend longstanding regulations under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) and Section 503 of the Rehabilitation Act, which deal with federal contractors’ and subcontractor’s affirmative action and nondiscrimination obligations toward protected veterans and individuals with disabilities. Among other things, these new rules establish specific hiring metrics, data collection practices, and recordkeeping requirements that federal contractors must implement for veterans and disabled individuals seeking employment.
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The Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued additional guidance to employers regarding the definition of “son or daughter” under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) as it relates to an adult child. Under the FMLA, an eligible employee may take leave to care for a son or daughter who is 18 years old or older if the following four conditions are met: (1) the adult child has a disability as defined by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA); (2) he or she is incapable of self-care as a result of the disability; (3) he or she has a serious health condition; and (4) the adult child is in need of care due to the serious health condition. A lingering question has been whether the onset of the child’s disability had to occur prior to the child turning 18 in order for the adult child’s parent to be eligible for FMLA leave.
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The ADA Amendments Act re-wrote the definition of disability so that it will likely include obesity-related health conditions and perhaps obesity itself as a protected disability. Before the ADA Amendments, being overweight and even obese was not generally considered a "disability". For example in EEOC v. Watkins Motor Lines, Inc., a court determined that

Today’s smokers [are] more addicted to nicotine according to a new study, which notes that 73% of those trying to quit are “highly dependent”. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 20.2% of Americans are smokers. Pennsylvania has a slightly higher rate of smoking at 21.5 % with 51.9% attempting to quit. Many of these smokers