A reader writes:
I have a situation that is so out there I almost wouldn’t believe it if it wasn’t happening to me. The company I work at has three branches and around 100 employees. The owner of the company has a brother who needs a liver transplant. Two weeks ago, a company-wide memo went out that all employees would be required to undergo testing to see if they were a suitable liver donor for the owners brother. No exceptions.
Last week at the branch the owner works out of most of the time, his assistant went around to schedule days off for everyone so they could go get tested. People who declined were let go. One of these people was born with liver disease and therefore ineligible to donate. She had a doctor’s note. Other people also had medical reasons as well and some were just uncomfortable with the request and didn’t want to do it. One was pregnant. They were still terminated. My employer’s assistant has said that because our employment is at will, he can legally fire us.
I’m in remission from cancer. I’m ineligible to donate and any kind of surgery would put a major strain on my system. Even if I was healthy, I would still object to possibly being forced into donating an organ just to keep my job. Soon they will be scheduling people’s days off for testing at my branch.
I know this situation is nuts, but I don’t know what to do. I know I could just go for the testing and then be declined, but I don’t think I should have to do that. I’ve had enough with hospitals. Other coworkers who don’t have medical conditions are afraid they won’t be declined because they will be a match. I’m looking for another job but in the meantime I don’t know what to do and I and many of my coworkers are really stressed out.
What the actual F.
He’s firing people who don’t want to sign up to donate part of their liver?
Your boss is both an absolute loon and an incredible jerk.
He’s also not very smart, since doctors won’t accept organ donations from people who aren’t willingly and happily volunteering, so all of this ridiculousness will be for nothing.
But let’s talk legality. I showed your letter to employment attorney Bryan Cavanaugh and asked him to weigh in. He says:
This employer is violating the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). The ADA’s purpose is broader than just protecting individuals with disabilities from unlawful discrimination and requiring employers to offer individuals with disabilities reasonable accommodations to perform the essential functions of their jobs. The ADA also prohibits employers from requiring employees to submit to medical examinations and medical inquiries, unless those medical examinations and medical inquiries are job-related and consistent with business necessity.
In this case, the employer’s requirement to undergo a medical examination (and presumably to undergo further medical procedures if the employee is a good match) has nothing to do with the business. It has nothing to do with the operations of the company and the employees’ ability to perform their jobs. Therefore, the employer is violating the federal ADA (and probably other state and local laws) by requiring employees to undergo this testing (which is not job-related and not consistent with business necessity) and by terminating the employment of those who refuse.
So to our ongoing list of your boss’s characteristics, which currently includes loon, jerk, and not smart, you can add law-breaker.
As for what to do, you could have a lawyer explain this to your employer on your behalf, and/or file a complaint with the EEOC, the federal agency that enforces the ADA. (Note that you have to file it within 180 days from the violation.)
But I’d also start job searching. Even if this gets quickly settled, you’re working with someone who has such a skewed idea of the employment relationship that he thinks he has say over your internal organs. Get out get out get out.
Note: This situation is so outrageous that it occurred to me to wonder whether the letter is real or not. At this point, I’ve received so many credible stories of outrageous behavior by employers that I’m willing to believe it and I’m treating it as genuine (and the letter-writer included a note to me outside the letter here that makes me think it’s real), but the reality is that I have no way of knowing. Letter-writer, assuming you are real, take this as a measure of how messed up the situation is. Commenters, I’m requesting that we not get derailed by debates about veracity. Thanks!
our boss will fire us if we don’t sign up to be a liver donor for his brother was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.