EEOC Goes to Court Over Realtor’s Firing of Senior Administrator Who Had Breast Cancer

An employer that digs in its heels over an employee’s request for a reasonable accommodation to treat a medical condition is asking for trouble from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

In the latest EEOC lawsuit against a company that it says wouldn’t consider a reasonable accommodation, the commission charges that a well-known commercial real estate services company did not live up to its legal obligations under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

According to the complaint, Toi Patterson worked for Cushman & Wakefield at its Columbia, Md., facility for nine years, first as an administrative assistant and after a promotion, as a senior administrator, when she requested intermittent leave for her breast cancer treatment under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

When she returned from her first intermittent medical leave, Paterson’s supervisor advised that they “needed to talk” and that she would need to know when Patterson was going to be late or absent. Based on the supervisor’s reaction, Patterson feared that the supervisor would make it difficult to use intermittent leave as needed for medical treatment, so Patterson requested continuous leave under the FMLA, according to the suit.

Prior to the expiration of her FMLA leave, Patterson requested to return to work on a part-time schedule as a reasonable accommodation for her disability and advised she might needed additional unpaid leave after her surgery. EEOC charges that Cushman & Wakefield failed to allow Patterson to work part-time and refused to discuss or provide any other reasonable accommodation to allow her to remain employed. Cushman & Wakefield instead fired Patterson because of her disability, according to the lawsuit.

“Firing a woman who is courageously fighting breast cancer is adding insult to injury and is unlawful disability discrimination,” said¬†Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., district director of EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office.

Here’s the EEOC’s announcement of the lawsuit.

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