by Zachary Busey
Originally published: July 21, 2016
The hashtags associated with our current social and political landscape are powerful. From #BlackLivesMatter to #BlueLivesMatter, #ImWithHer to #ImWithHim and #NeverHillary to #NeverTrump, if a picture is worth a thousand words, then these and other hashtags can be worth tens of thousands. So what happens when hashtags – along with the words and emotions they generate – move into the workplace? How do employers respond? There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but the scenarios below provide some guidance.
Personal/Sick Leave: The events surrounding these hashtags can give rise to requests for leave. In general, such requests will be decided by the employer's written policies. To avoid charges of disparate treatment, employers must ensure leave requests are handled the same among employees of different races, gender and national origin. Also, temporary leave can, under certain circumstances, be a reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended. Accordingly, if an employee requests leave, for example, to cope with the mental or emotional stresses of an event, an employer needs to respond as it would to any request for accommodation under the ADA. The employer needs to engage in the interactive process, inquire as to the reasons for and length of the requested leave, and then determine if the accommodation is reasonable under the circumstances. The Family Medical Leave Act should also be considered if the leave request is related to a serious health condition of the employee or the employee's immediate family member.