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Could chronic tardiness be the latest protected disability?

Could chronic tardiness be the latest protected disability?

Just when you thought you'd heard it all in terms of employee disabilities, there is always something new.

As reported by attorney Jonathan T. Hyman, a partner at Meyers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis in Cleveland, in his Ohio Employer's Law Blog last week, doctors have begun diagnosing individuals with chronic lateness, which is said to be a condition caused by the same part of the brain affected in those who suffer from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

A 2013 article by the U.K. Daily Mail reports on a then-57-year-old Scotsman who was apparently relieved to be given a diagnosis of chronic lateness by a local hospital. Jim Dunbar told the newspaper he has lost a lot of jobs because of his “condition.”

“My family don't believe it and think I'm making excuses. I been late for funerals and slipped in and hid at the back of the hall. I arranged to pick my friend up at midday to go on holiday and was four hours late ... A friend invited me for a meal, and I was more than three hours late.”

Diana DeLonzor, the author of “Never Be Late Again: 7 Cures for the Punctually Challenged,” has drawn links between chronic lateness and certain personality characteristics, including anxiety, low self-control and a tendency toward thrill-seeking, according to the Huffington Post.

Fortunately, the American Psychiatric Association, at least so far, has not defined chronic lateness as a medical condition or one that that might fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

But as Mr. Hyman points out, that does not mean that at some point there will not be an effort to use it as an ADA-protected disability. It's not such a big step from all this to workers claiming they could not help being late, and plaintiff attorneys are rarely shy about embracing new challenges.

Perhaps businesses should brace themselves.

Meanwhile, just because some employees may try to use discrimination law to their advantage in a specious cause does not mean employers are always entirely innocent themselves.

A case in point is a report earlier this month on that “digital native,” a term coined by author Marc Prensky in 2001, is starting to creep into help wanted ads. An ad for a director of creative and brand marketing at a car-sharing service, for instance, said the firm is seeking a “proven creative leader and digital native.”

These “natives” apparently would be people to whom working with “digital” — i.e. computers, Internet, games and the like — is “native.” In other words, these employers are seeking young people who grew up with computers, a less-than-subtle indication that over-40 “old-timers” need not apply. All of which, of course, raises at least the specter of age discrimination under the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.

But hey! What if they always came to work on time?