Employer Caves in ADA Suit Alleging Unlawful Firing of Employee Returning from Medical Leave

Perhaps a company’s termination of a warehouse clerk had nothing to do with her telling it that she had medical restrictions following her surgery to remove a 23-pound tumor, but was indeed part of a reduction-in-force.

But the company, Apria Healthcare Inc., a home medical provider that offers medical equipment and services in Albuquerque, wasn’t about to roll the dice and take its chances in court.

So instead it settled the lawsuit for $100,000, the EEOC announced yesterday.

The lawsuit charged that Apria violated the Americans With Disabilities Act by firing Hilda Padilla approximately one week after she returned from medical leave to remove a 23-pound tumor. Although the company alleged the termination was due to a reduction-in-force, Padilla was not given notice of the impending layoff, and another warehouse clerk’s position was not considered for elimination, according to EEOC’s suit.

The company initiated its decision to lay off Padilla only two days after she provided notice of her medical restrictions. Padilla was then left without medical insurance or the ability to receive follow-up medical care after her surgery.

“The timing of the reduction-in-force in this lawsuit was suspect and it was particularly difficult for Ms. Padilla, who had not yet recovered from surgery,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “It is important for employees to know they are entitled to request and avail themselves of reasonable accommodations to perform their essential job functions without fear of facing termination from their employment.”

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