Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) Issues Probable Cause Finding in Handicap Discrimination Case

Last week, I received a Probable Cause finding from the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination (MCAD) in a case involving handicap discrimination.

The decision confirms that, where an employer requests medical documentation from an employee to verify a medical condition and make accommodations, the inquiry must be appropriately focused:

The MCAD Guidelines state than an employer may request medical documentation to determine the existence of a disability and identify effective accommodations. However, the guidelines also that the inquiry must be appropriately focused. In the instant case, the Respondent’s inquiries were not appropriately focused. The Respondent allowed a line supervisor to determine that an accommodation was to be denied. The Respondent then engaged in a protracted and obtuse series of inquiries by various individuals who lacked the knowledge or authority to determine what if any accommodation was needed.

Click here for the full decision.

The MCAD Process has multiple stages. First, a Charge of Discrimination must be filed within 300 days from the date the discrimination occurred. In response to the charges, the employer submits its Position Statement. The complainant next submits his or her Rebuttal in the final stage of the pleadings. Once all pleadings are submitted, the MCAD conducts its investigation and determines whether Probable Cause for discrimination exists.

The Probable Cause finding means that the MCAD has found sufficient evidence to support a conclusion that unlawful discrimination may have occurred. The case then proceeds to a conciliation conference where efforts at resolution between the Complainant and the Respondent are attempted. If the parties are unable to resolve the dispute, the case goes to Public Hearing.