This is a follow up to a post last week in which I provided a short commentary on a developing story about the Maine radio personality who was purportedly the subject of a claimed layoff. The long-time, seasoned employee claims she was terminated because she did not return to work due to concerns about COVID-19. It has not taken her long to retain an attorney to explore her options and request her personnel file. Thereafter, the plan is to file a complaint alleging claims under the Whistleblowers Protection Act, the Maine Human Rights Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act.
By e-mail to its employees, the employer attempted to clarify the situation indicating that the employee was not terminated due to health reasons and was not terminated at all. Rather, because she did not return to work as requested, she was laid off. Her employer has also stated it will stand by the terms upon a previously agreed to, remote work agreement.
For certain, the issues raised by the employee and employer in this matter are not unique to the media industry. Scenarios like this are more than likely playing out across many industries and places of employment not only in Maine, but across the nation, as the country attempts to return to a pre-pandemic work structure. Whether these all will be aired publicly and in open court remains to be seen. Moreover, it begs the fundamental question of whether a pre-pandemic work structure can ever be re-established, particularly if remote work is available, achievable, and for all intents and purposes, effective. Yet, pre-pandemic or post-pandemic, it is more or less the same old song and dance: if an employee makes a request and has medical documentation to support such a request and the employer can reasonably accommodate the request without undue hardship, it must do so.