Last week in this space, we looked at a situation in which a Bank of America employee was fired for mooning his boss and telling him he hoped he never returned to the office. Verdict: Completely justified firing. This week, let’s look at the case of a Bank of America employee fired because his right hand, arm, and leg were disabled in an accident and he was told that accommodating him “wouldn’t be fair to people with two hands.” Verdict: Ummm, do you really need to ask?
Daniel Herrmann worked for three years in customer service for Merrill Lynch, and then for Bank of America after a merger. The disabled Bank of America employee says he was fired in September 2010 for being one or two minutes late after a lunch break. Herrmann walks with a limp that slows him down, because of a serious car accident that injured him in 1992. His lawyer describes him as a “hard worker who needed very minor accommodations for his obvious disabilities.” Herrmann had been hired in 2007, and his duties included making customer service calls to people who were behind on their mortgage payments. He regularly hit performance targets adjusted for his disability, and he had 13 years of experience in the banking industry.
Now 38, Herrmann is suing Bank of America in Pennsylvania over the termination. The Americans with Disabilities Act requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to disabled employees. A minute or two extra on a lunch break would seem to qualify. (Read previous Grindstone coverage of disabilities and the workplace here.)
Before the merger with Bank of America, Merrill Lynch had accommodated his reduced typing abilities by providing a left-handed keyboard and a dictation program, and allowing him to pause between phone calls to input info into the computer system. But after Bank of America took over his department, his new supervisors refused to allow him extra time for typing. He failed to meet the new rigid performance goals, losing out on bonuses and being assigned to less-favorable shifts. When he mentioned the ADA to his supervisor, he says he was told “Bank of America is not going to do anything for you,” and “Bank of America doesn’t have ADA rules.”
Eventually, as ABC News reports, he was given six warnings for arriving back at his desk “seconds or minutes late.” Then he was fired.
If Herrmann’s account is accurate, his firing is a textbook mistake in terms of human resources. It’s also an even more glaring mistake in terms of basic humanity.