Posts Tagged ‘denial of reasonable accommodation’

EEOC: Employer Ousted Employee Over TB Test

Nobody wants to mess with tuberculosis, but the fear that an employee has the disease isn’t a lawful reason to deny her a job, especially if the employee’s doctor has OK-ayed her for work.

Educational after-school camp Cooking Round the World (CRTW) violated federal law when it relieved an employee of her duties after she tested positive for latent tuberculosis, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed Sept. 25.

According to the EEOC’s investigation, Alexis Le successfully worked for CRTW as a chef educator for several months before she received a positive test result for an inactive form of tuberculosis (TB) in March 2017. Although Le explained that she was not contagious and had received a doctor’s certification permitting her to work in a school environment and as a medical assistant, CRTW director and owner Mindy Myers refused to allow Le to continue to work as a chef educator, claiming that she could never again work with children or in schools. The alternative leafleting job Myers offered Le paid less per hour and provided few hours per week, forcing Le to find other work to support herself.

The EEOC also charged that CRTW breached Le’s confidentiality by disclosing her diagnosis to a co-worker and failing to segregate employee medical records from non-confidential personnel records.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on a disability or a perceived disability. It also requires that all medical information about a disability must be kept confidential, and maintained in separate medical files. The EEOC filed suit (CIV# 4:18-cv-05880) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.

“Ms. Le loved her job working with children and was shocked when her boss would not accept her medical certification,” said William Tamayo, the EEOC’s San Francisco District Office director. “The ADA protects qualified workers who are perceived as having a disability, in addition to those who actually do have a disability or a record of one.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Roberta Steele noted, “While it’s true that California law requires that staff working with students be free of infectious TB, Ms. Le had been certified by her doctor as non-contagious and safe to work in a school environment. When Meyers relied on her own misperceptions over medical expertise to remove Le from her position, this employer violated the ADA.”

EEOC Trial Attorney Debra Smith added, “No employer, no matter how small or well-intended, is above the law. By disbelieving Ms. Le’s medical proof that allowed her to work children, this employer caused her emotional distress and limited employment opportunity.”

According to company information, CRTW is an educational, after-school and summer cooking camp with programs in the San Francisco Bay Area and San Diego, with headquarters in Oakland.

EEOC Sues Texas Health Care System Over Denial of Light Duty for Pregnant Worker

It’s textbook Title VII law that an employer must accommodate pregnant workers to let them continue working. One popular accommodation is light duty assignments.

Nix Hospitals System, LLC d/b/a Nix Healthcare System (“Nix Hospital”), a provider of comprehensive medical services, including a full-service hospital and various medical facilities in San Antonio, discriminated on the basis of pregnancy when it fired an employee after denying her request for light duty accommodation for her pregnancy-related medical restrictions, but allowed such accommodation for nonpregnant employees similar in abilities or inabilities to work, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed September 25.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Civil Action Number 5:18-cv-01004, filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, San Antonio Division, Nix Hospital violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA), by refusing to accommodate the employee’s pregnancy-related medical restrictions, and instead immediately placed the employee on leave. The employee applied for two open desk positions which would have allowed her to work even with her medical restrictions, but Nix Hospital continued to deny her such light duty positions, resulting in her termination. Nonpregnant employees injured on the job with medical restrictions were, however, granted light duty.

Such alleged conduct violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 (PDA). Under the PDA, employers are prohibited from engaging in sex discrimination on the basis of pregnancy, including making employment decisions based on pregnancy-related medical conditions. It is a violation of federal law to deny work accommodations to employees with pregnancy-related medical restrictions but grant such accommodations to non-pregnant employees similar in their ability or inability to work. After the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office found reasonable cause to believe that Nix Healthcare System had violated the PDA, the agency attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The remedies sought by the EEOC include back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for the victim, as well as injunctive relief.

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney David Rivela of the EEOC’s San Antonio Field Office said, “Women affected by pregnancy or related medical conditions should be treated the same for all employment-related purposes as other persons not so affected, but similar in their ability or inability to work.”

EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Eduardo Juarez added, “The law is clear – an employer is required to treat an employee temporarily unable to perform the functions of her job because of her pregnancy-related condition in the same manner as it treats other temporarily disabled employees. Employers must fairly and carefully consider the accommodation requests of pregnant employees with medical restrictions and not reject such requests simply because the restrictions are not the result of work injuries.”

The San Antonio Field Office is part of the EEOC’s Dallas District Office which is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Texas and parts of New Mexico.

$832K Settlement Closes ADA Reasonable Accommodation Suit Against Utah Grocery Chain

Employers across the country should take a lesson from this case that they must take their reasonable accommodation obligations towards disabled employees seriously.

A Salt Lake City-based grocery store chain will pay $832,500  to resolve a group of disability discrimination charges filed with the U.S.  Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced July 12.

The EEOC’s investigation revealed that  a qualified individual with a disability and a group of other aggrieved  individuals with medical conditions were denied reasonable accommodations to  perform their jobs. These accommodations include additional leave, working with  restrictions and reassignment. The investigation revealed a practice of  disciplining and/or firing employees because of their need for reasonable  accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

AFM’s policies and procedures  revealed a practice of denying reasonable accommodations under the ADA;  requiring employees to have no restrictions or be 100% ready to return to work;  denying leave as a reasonable accommodation; and refusing to provide  reassignment to a vacant position as required by the ADA. AFM’s practices  resulted in the termination or resignation of a group of qualified individuals  with disabilities, the EEOC found.

On July 12,  2018 Associated Fresh Market, Inc. (AFM), owned wholly by Associated Retail  Operations, Inc. (formerly known as Associated Retail Stores) agreed to pay a  total of $75,000 to an employee to resolve his disability discrimination charge. In addition, AFM agreed to pay $757,500 to other aggrieved individuals  identified by the EEOC during the investigation who were also adversely  impacted by AFM’s policies and practices due to their medical conditions.

While denying it violated the ADA,  AFM has acknowledged a need to improve in working with applicants and employees  with disabilities. In addition to monetary payments to the discrimination  victims, AFM agreed to make changes to its ADA policies and procedures and to  conduct training for its human resources team as well as for all store  directors, assistant store directors and employees.
“I  am very pleased with the resolution of this matter without having to go through  the litigation process,” said EEOC Phoenix District Director Elizabeth Cadle. “AFM  has worked closely with the EEOC to resolve these allegations and do what is  best for these individuals, their company, applicants and employees.”

The EEOC’s Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction  for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and part of New Mexico (including  Albuquerque).

EEOC: Air Service Company Suspended Employee Because of Medical Conditions

Employees that have health battles shouldn’t have to fight for a reasonable accommodation from their employer.

ABM Aviation, Inc., formerly Air Serv Corporation, an aviation industry cleaning and services provider at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in Atlanta, Ga., violated federal law when it denied an employee a reasonable accommodation and terminated her employment due to her disabilities, cardiomyopathy and acute myeloid leukemia, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. The EEOC further alleged that ABM discriminated against the employee when it suspended her for absences related to her disabilities.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. ABM Aviation, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:18-CV-957-SCJ JSA) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The federal agency seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.

“ABM recklessly disregarded the federally protected rights of this employee to earn a living and provide for her family given a reasonable accommodation,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “The EEOC will continue to hold employers accountable for failing to honor anti-discrimination laws if we are to see significant, long-term change in the way society views individuals with disabilities and the value they add to the workforce.”

Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, district director for EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, added, “Supporting the medical needs of their employees to allow reasonable accommodations of disabilities should be a top priority for all employers not just because it is the law, but because it is the right thing to do.”

EEOC: Employer Violated ADA in Refusing Employee More Time Off for Medical Recovery

Employers that take a my-way-or-the-highway stance toward employees who need a little more time off to recover from illness or surgery stand a good chance of being sued over their decisionmaking. A North Carolina company now faces a summons from the federal government to appear in court and answer for its behavior.

Heritage Home Group, LLC (Heritage Home), a North Carolina corporation that designs, manufactures, sources and retails home furnishings, violated federal law when it denied a reasonable accommodation to one of its employees and then fired him, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed Jan. 31.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Heritage Home hired Michael Woods to work as a machine operator at its Hickory Chair Company manufacturing plant in Hickory, N.C., in October 2015. Woods, a diabetic, developed an infection in one of his toes in March 2016. Woods underwent an operation to have the toe amputated, and was subsequently diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy in both feet. The EEOC said that around April 8, 2016, Woods, who was out of work on short-term disability leave, informed Heritage Home of his anticipated return to work the first week of June, since he needed the additional leave to recover fully. In a letter dated April 29, 2016, Heritage Home informed Woods that it was terminating his employment because he would not be able to return to work until then.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with a disability unless doing so would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Statesville Division (EEOC v. Heritage Home Group, LLC, Civil Action No. 5:18-cv-00018) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.

“The obligation to accommodate an employee with a disability so that he or she can retain the job is a fundamental aspect of the ADA,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District Office. “Employers must be careful to give employees a fair chance to make a full recovery from disability-related conditions and return to productive work when the company can do so without undue hardship.”

$85K Settlement Closes EEOC’s ADA Suit Against Miss. Health Care Services Firm

Failure to grant a health care worker additional leave to recover from surgery came back to haunt this employer.

Pioneer Health Services, Inc., a Mississippi corporation that provides inpatient and outpatient health care services, has agreed to pay $85,000 to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced Jan. 10.

According to the EEOC’s suit, in July 2012, Joyce Dumas, who worked for Pioneer as a social worker/therapist, became ill and was hospitalized due to liver failure. She requested leave while she underwent liver transplant surgery, and Pioneer approved the request. After successful transplant surgery on Aug. 2, 2012, she was slated to return to work in mid-September. However, when Dumas requested several weeks additional leave to recover from the surgery, Pioneer denied the request and subsequently fired her because she had exhausted her company-approved leave. Further, Pioneer refused to re-hire Dumas for an available social worker/therapist position several months later.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s disability, unless the employer would suffer an undue hardship as a result. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-00016-GHD-DAS) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, Aberdeen Division on Feb. 3, 2017 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to monetary relief, the five-year consent decree settling the suit requires Pioneer to provide training to its employees on its obligations under the ADA and review its anti-discrimination policies and modify them if necessary, and enjoins the company from engaging in any discrimination or retaliation because of disability in the future. The decree also requires Pioneer to assign a senior company official, trained in the requirements of the ADA, the responsibility of providing written recommendations to Pioneer’s management before terminating any employee based on his or her actual, perceived, or record of a physical or mental impairment, or for exhaustion of medical leave.

“The intersection of the ADA and Family and Medical Leave Act will continue to be an area of focus for the EEOC,” said Delner Franklin-Thomas, the EEOC’s Birmingham District director who oversaw the agency’s investigation. “We are pleased that Pioneer has agreed to implement training and revise its anti-discrimination policies.”

Marsha L. Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office, added, “Employers should understand that they cannot simply fire an employee with a disability once she has exhausted her allotted 12 weeks of leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act. Rather, the ADA requires the employer to determine whether that employee can be accommodated by a brief extension of leave that would enable the employee to return to work.”

The EEOC’s Birmingham District Office has jurisdiction over Alabama, Mississippi (all but 17 counties in the northern part of Mississippi), and the Florida Panhandle.

ADA Settlement Yields $38K for Ex-Phlebotomist

A health care staffing agency might rue the way it handled the case of a phlebotomist who sought an accommodation due to pregnancy-related accommodations.

Dependable Health Services Inc., a health care staffing agency, will pay $38,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC, the federal agency announced Dec. 22.

According to the suit, Sheena Berry began working as a phlebotomist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., in March 2016 and continued employment with Dependable Health Services when the company acquired the medical services contract at Walter Reed. Berry requested a reasonable accommodation of not staffing mobile blood drives due to sickle-cell anemia-related pregnancy complications. Dependable Health Services initially refused to provide the accommodation but later did so by temporarily transferring Berry to the out-patient phlebotomy department, EEOC said.

While on maternity leave, Berry provided several status updates to Dependable Health Services. Berry requested a permanent reasonable accommodation reassignment to a position that did not require mobile blood drive staffing. EEOC charged that on February 24, 2017, Berry informed Dependable Health Services of her planned return to work on February 28, 2017. Dependable Health Services abruptly terminated Berry effective February 27, 2017 stating a decision “to have [Berry’s] position backfilled effective immediately.”

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability. The ADA also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations unless the employer can prove it would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Dependable Health Services, Inc., Civil Action No. 8:17-cv-02316) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the $38,000 in monetary relief, Berry will receive a favorable letter of recommendation. The five-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins Dependable Health Services from violating the ADA, including refusal to provide reasonable accommodations. The owner of Dependable Health Services will distribute a memorandum to all employees emphasizing a commitment to ADA compliance, along with a copy of the company’s revised reasonable accommodations policy. It will also provide ADA training to all managers, supervisors and human resources employees. Dependable Health Services will also report to the EEOC on how it handles any complaints of disability discrimination and post a notice regarding the settlement.

“We are pleased Dependable Health Services worked with us to resolve this matter amicably,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “In addition to the monetary relief to Ms. Berry, this settlement provides substantial equitable measures to protect all employees and applicants from disability discrimination.”

District Director Kevin Berry added, “Firing an employee is never a good response to a reasonable accommodation request. This settlement should encourage all employers to engage in the interactive process to keep qualified individuals with disabilities working, including reassignment to a vacant position if necessary.”