EEOC: Employee Violated ADA in Treatment of Employee With Congenital Abnormality

The EEOC has taken a Southern health care organization to court over its treatment of an employee who suffered a congenital abnormality, charging it violated the Americans With Disabilities Act in the way it handled her situation.

The lawsuit recounted that the employee, Cecelia Whitten, has congenital orthopedic abnormalities that, since birth, have caused her to have difficulty standing for long periods, walking long distances and keeping her balance. Whitten began working for McLeod Health in 1984 as a communications specialist. In 2012, McLeod required Whitten to submit to two medical examinations as a result of symptoms related to her disability. Whitten was placed on leave pending the completion of the medical examinations. As a result of one of the medical examinations, McLeod’s Occupational Health Department recommended certain job accommodations for Whitten. Around Aug. 13, 2012, McLeod informed Whitten that she could not return to work in her position as a communications specialist because McLeod could not provide her with certain job accommodations. The EEOC said that despite the fact that Whitten could perform her job duties, McLeod did not allow her to return to work but rather fired her on Feb. 12, 2013 when she exhausted her Family and Medical Leave Act leave.

The EEOC said that this conduct violates the ADA because it was based on assumptions about Whitten’s disability. “In this case, Ms. Whitten had been performing her job for almost 30 years, when she was fired because of assumptions associated with her disability. The EEOC is here to fight for the rights of people like Cecelia Whitten.”

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