How should we accommodate disabled employees on field day?

I have a disability which my employers are well aware of. During a staff meeting the subject of field day was brought up. I had previously given suggestions for activities for employees that could not play a highly physical sport to do instead. A coworker said that it wasn’t fair that the “crips” assigned to various teams wasn’t fairly balanced. The manager went right along saying no it wasn’t fair to have “crips” on one team and not others. Then a second employee joined, causing the term to be used at least twelve times, including four times by the manager. I approached the second coworker the next day while speaking with my supervisor. He said “You are too sensitive” and my supervisor agreed. I told them it embarrassed me and hurt my feelings and was out of line. Wanting an apology, I got just more of “You are too sensitive.”

Posted  10-10-2012

Ann Kiernan replies:

You are not too sensitive. You are absolutely right!

The Americans with Disabilities Act’s requirements of no discrimination, no harassment, and reasonable accommodation cover not only working conditions, but also the “benefits and privileges” of employment. That includes social or recreational activities provided or conducted by an employer. According to Section 7.12 of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s Technical Assistance Manual,

Employees with disabilities must have an equal opportunity to attend and participate in any social functions conducted or sponsored by an employer. Functions such as parties, picnics, shows, and award ceremonies should be held in accessible locations, and interpreters or other accommodation should be provided when necessary.

and

Employees with disabilities must be given an equal opportunity to participate in employer-sponsored sports teams, leagues, or recreational activities such as hiking or biking clubs. However, the employer does not have to discontinue such activities because a disabled employee cannot fully participate due to his/her disability. For example, an employer would not have to discontinue the company biking club simply because a blind employee is unable to ride a bicycle.

So, you were completely correct in asking that the company field day include activities accessible to employees with disabilities. And you were completely correct in objecting to the demeaning and insulting language used by your supervisor and co-workers. If you have not done so, please make sure to report their behavior to Human Resources, and ask for an investigation and corrective action. Good luck.

 

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.

2015-06-10T17:14:40+00:00

About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.