Employer Settles ADA Suit Alleging Denial of Accommodation to Employee With Fibromyalgia

A senior living facility in Denver fumbled the ball in handling a request by its health and wellness director for a reasonable accommodation for her disability, and as a result it is $112,500 poorer. That’s the price paid by Brookdale Senior Living Communities, Inc. to rid itself of an Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit filed on the director’s behalf by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

According to the commission, Brookdale failed a litany of ADA provisions, including not sufficiently engaging the director–who suffered from fibromyalgia-in dialogue to try to find an accommodation, and conditioning her reinstatement to her job on her working without any restrictions.

As related by the EEOC, after Bernadine Adams took leave from work due to symptoms of fibromyalgia, Brookdale refused her request for a temporary modified work schedule, an ergonomic chair, and adjustments to the lighting in her office.  Further, Brookdale required Adams to remain on leave until she was able to return to work without any restrictions or accommodations.  Following further requests for accommodation and a discrimination charge, Brookdale fired Adams by letter, stating she “failed to engage in the interactive process within reasonable terms.”

The moral of this story comes from EEOC regional attorney Mary Jo O’Neill:

“As we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the ADA, employers need to know that snap judgments and refusals to consider reasonable accommodations can lead to violations of the law.  Sometimes the employer and employees will have to engage in a number of conversations and discussions of options in order to arrive at an effective reasonable accommodation.  Employers should also know that imposing a requirement that employees be without any restrictions whatsoever in order to return to work is a recipe for disaster.”

Enough said. Here’s the EEOC’s announcement of the lawsuit and settlement.

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