How to Avoid “Regarded As” Discrimination Claims under the ADA

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Presentation has been APPROVED for SHRM Re-Certification Credits.

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Kara Craig Vigilant

We all know that discrimination based on disability is against the law and wrong.  But what about “regarded as” disability discrimination?  What does “regarded as” disabled mean?  In this session, attorney Kara Craig will explore an area of exposure that is an often overlooked area of liability for employers.

This type of claim, known as “regarded as” disability discrimination, can sneak up on you despite your best intentions. Without medical verification to establish that an employee has an impairment that meets the definition of disability, you may be (knowingly or unknowingly) operating on biases, perceptions and presumptions that can lead to a discrimination claim. Likewise, failing to identify and implement a reasonable accommodation because you’ve determined that an employee poses a direct safety threat may also lead to a “regarded as” claim.  How does an employer balance their responsibility to provide a safe workplace without inadvertently trampling on the rights of the employee?

In this session we will take a closer look at:

  • Overview of legal requirements to establish a “regarded as” discrimination claim under the ADA
  • Common disabilities (combined with our misperceptions) that may invite such claims
  • Refresher on the reasonable accommodation analysis and process
  • Cautionary tales regarding assertion that a disabled employee poses a “direct safety threat”
  • EEOC guidance and best practices

Kara Craig is a seasoned attorney and energetic presenter.  Kara has been practicing law for over 17 years.  As an employment attorney with Vigilant, Kara provides counsel to Oregon and Washington State businesses on the entire range of employment and labor law issues.  She also represents clients in administrative proceedings pending before the EEOC and state agencies such as BOLI and the WSHRC.  Kara is always eager to conduct onsite training for HR professionals, managers, supervisors, and employees.  Before joining Vigilant in December of last year, Kara served as employment and labor counsel at Archbright, based in Seattle.  Before relocating from Illinois to Washington in 2013, Kara represented the Chicago Board of Education and defended employment matters filed in state and federal court.  Kara takes pride in her ability to provide practical advice and draws from her extensive litigation experience when making risk assessments.  Hopefully you’ll find Kara’s down-to-earth nature and sense of humor somewhat refreshing, as we navigate the tricky and sometimes frustrating world of employment law!