A federal jury in Florida just ruled in favor of a one-armed security guard who was effectively fired after a customer complained about his assignment. The customer called the security company a “joke” for assigning a security guard who lost an arm in a car accident to its property. In response, the company pulled the guard from the assignment and did not not provide him with another assignment. An ADA lawsuit filed by the EEOC followed. In addition to having to pay the former security guard, the employer now has to train its workforce on the anti-discrimination laws and implement new policies.
Lesson learned: customer preference is never a defense! So what should this employer have done? Arguably, the customer raised a legitimate concern about the guard’s ability to safely and effectively provide security services. In response, and perhaps even in the absence of such a complaint, the employer should have taken the following steps:
- Initiate a dialogue with the guard about his ability to perform the essential functions of the job
- Consider seeking a fitness for duty certification from a medical professional to ensure the guard could perform these duties
- Consider reasonable accommodations, if necessary, to enable the guard to perform the job
- If and only if these measures led the employer to determine the guard was incapable of performing the essential job functions, with or without a reasonable accommodation, should the employer have taken any adverse action.
If you have a situation that requires these kinds of steps, get counsel involved.