EEOC Scores Big in ADA Settlement Over Leave Denials to Workers Providing Health Care in Jail

There’s no jail time for ADA violations, but if there were this employer’s too-stingy policy on medical leaves would surely wind up behind bars.

Corizon Health Inc. and Corizon LLC have agreed to pay $950,000 and provide other significant relief in a public consent decree to settle a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employ­ment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced May 16. The Corizon companies provide health care in jails and corrections facilities across the nation, including Arizona.

According to the EEOC, Corizon violated federal law by, among other things, refusing to accommodate employees with disabilities who exhausted their leave under Corizon’s 30-day medical leave policy and/or the Family and Medical Leave Act and terminating them. Corizon repeatedly failed to consider accommodations, including, but not limited to, reassignment, unpaid leave and modified work schedules that would have allowed employees with disabilities to return to work.

Further, the EEOC said, Corizon required employees with disabilities to be 100% healed or to be without any medical restrictions before they could return to work. Also, Corizon refused to accommodate employees with disabilities seeking other accommodations; subjected employees to a hostile work environment due to their disabilities and/or need for accommodation; retaliated against some employees because they engaged in protected activity; terminated employees who had disabilities or needed accommodations; and refused to promote one employee because of her disability and/or need for accommodation.

Corizon’s alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. Corizon Health Inc., and Corizon LLC, No. 2:18-cv-02942-PHX-DLR, in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its pre-litigation conciliation process.

Under the consent decree that was signed by Phoenix-based federal court Judge Douglas L. Rayes, the Corizon companies will pay $950,000 to 23 individuals the EEOC identified in the consent decree as harmed by the policies and practices alleged. The companies will also modify their policies and practices and designate ADA coaches to ensure that employees with disabilities are afforded reasonable accommodations. They will also provide annual training to all their employees, including all human resources and management-level officials, and the Corizon companies will hire a monitor to ensure that they comply with their obligations under the decree and the ADA.

“We are very concerned that so many employers violate the ADA with discriminatory policies,” said EEOC Phoenix District Office Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “Employers need to consider additional unpaid leave and reassignment as reasonable accommodations when an employee is unable to do their job even with reasonable accommodations. We look forward to Corizon taking significant steps under this decree to better protect the rights of employees with disabilities.”

Elizabeth Cadle, district director of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, added, “Employers should understand that policies which require an employee to be 100% or without any medical restric­tions violate the ADA because they don’t leave room for reasonable accommodations. Employers should also remember that leave policies must be administered consistent with the need to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities. We continue to see many employers with these problematic policies.”

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