DEAR HARRIETTE: My co-worker is in a wheelchair. During quarantine, our general manager sent a memo for all employees to use a back entrance to our store in order to do proper check-in before our shifts. This entrance is not handicap accessible. My co-worker asked to use an alternative entrance where he can get inside without help.
My co-worker came to me concerned for his job after being shot down by our general manager and was told he needs to use the same entrance as everyone else. I could not believe this! He is in a protected class and should be treated as such. Now I want to take action. Where do I start? -- Supportive Co-Worker
DEAR SUPPORTIVE CO-WORKER: COVID-19 has not always brought out the best in people. Your manager sounds stressed and stretched. Clearly, he is not thinking compassionately about your co-worker who cannot discard his disability simply because there is a need for change at the office.
You could go to your general manager privately and point out that this new rule makes it impossible for your co-worker to navigate entry into the building independently. Ask him to reconsider allowing your co-worker to use a wheelchair-friendly entrance.
Before you point out the legal requirement to provide access to this employee, check the rules. If this is a small business with fewer than 15 employees, the company is not required to make that accommodation. If that’s the case, appealing to the general manager’s humanity is the way to go. For more details, go to eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/your-employment-rights-individual-disability.
If your general manager refuses to allow your friend to use a different entrance, why don’t you offer to meet him each morning, if possible, to help him enter the job? Hopefully, this will be a temporary problem.