Category Archives: Medical

Genetic Information Now Protected By Law

In June 2008, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush. The law prohibits discrimination based on genetic information about employees and applicants, their dependants, and any relatives out to the fourth-degree, such as great-grandparents. GINA stops employers from requesting, requiring or purchasing genetic information about an employee or his family members. The law goes into effect for employers beginning in November 2009.

Although many people have questioned why we needed a law when no one recognized that genetic discrimination was a problem, the federal government seemed to think that the law was necessary to allow genetic testing to begin to be used to its full potential in fighting disease. In fact, the law passed with only one “no” vote in the House and unanimously in the Senate.

How do you as an employer need to respond to GINA? Continue reading Genetic Information Now Protected By Law

Employing Mentally Disabled Employees

            It is disconcerting to consider the issues an employer faces with a mentally impaired employee.

            The Americans with Disabilities Act and the Texas Human Rights Act protect employees with mental impairments when they are employed by a company with at least 15 employees. But many employers are unprepared to legally interview, hire, employ and occasionally fire a mentally impaired employee.

            Generally the ADA protects employees who are qualified for the job but whose physical or mental impairments substantially limits major life activities such as concentrating or interacting with others. Employers must reasonably accommodate these disabled individuals if they can perform the essential functions of the job.

            Most employers I work with are willing to give mentally ill employees a fair chance and many mentally impaired employees are performing satisfactorily at all sorts of jobs.

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Family and Medical Leave Act Mistakes

Although the law was adopted with much political posturing in August 1993, I have rarely mentioned the Family and Medical Leave Act (“FMLA”) in this column over the last ten years that I’ve been writing it for two reasons:

1.    It only affects employers who have 50 or more employees on the payroll; and

2.    It provides only unpaid leave, so very few employees can afford to take the 12 weeks off that the FMLA allows.

But I have decided it is time to readdress the FMLA if for no other reason than to combat the misinformation that seems to exist about it. If you are an employer that is affected by it, then you need a lot more knowledge than I can provide in this column, but this should act as an introduction for you.

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Options For Compensating Injured Employees

             Bill is an employee of a small manufacturing business in Amarillo. His job involves operating heavy machinery. One day he injures his back at work. He stays at home for a couple of days. When the pain doesn’t get better, he goes to his family physician, who sends Bill to a specialist, who recommends surgery. Bill has the surgery and misses three months of work. Bill’s medical treatment and lost wages amount to more than $50,000.

            This scenario or a variation of it happens every day in the workplaces across the Panhandle. And employers dread it every day.

            On the job injuries raise very difficult questions for an employer. Obviously you as the employer want your employees taken care of properly before and after an injury. But what will that cost the employer? Will Bill sue his employer? What if Bill’s accident happened because he was negligent in not following the safety rules?

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