Posts Tagged ‘disabled employee’

Employee Fired After Requesting Medical Leave Has Ally in EEOC, Which Sues Her Employer

Never a good idea to fire an employee because she asked for medical leave to deal with her disability, without further inquiry or attempting a reasonable accommodation.

Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, a regional medical center located in Albany, Ga., violated federal disability discrimination law when it fired an employee after she requested leave due to her medical condition, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission EEOC charged in a lawsuit it filed yesterday.

According to the EEOC’s suit, in May 2016, Phoebe Putney discharged Medical Records Analyst Wendy Kelley rather than grant her request for a reasonable accommodation in the form of leave to receive treatment for her medical condition. Kelley was fired within days of requesting two weeks of medical leave to comply with her doctor’s restrictions that she not work during that time. Due to her condition, Kelley fainted at the hospital’s facility on the way to meet with her supervisor about her request for leave. Instead of rescheduling the meeting, Phoebe Putney denied Kelley’s request for leave and terminated her employment.

Such conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17-CV-00201-WLS) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Albany Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking reinstatement, back pay, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages for Kelley, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent future discrimination.

“An employer cannot discharge an employee because that employee has an actual or perceived disability or because she sought a reasonable accommodation,” said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “The employee here sought to exercise her rights under the ADA to receive a reasonable accommodation, but instead of accommodating her, the hospital simply kicked her out the door. Such conduct violates federal law, and the EEOC is here to stand up for the victims of such thoughtless discrimination.”

Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, district director of the Atlanta office, said, “The EEOC is committed to stopping workplace disability discrimination in Georgia and across the country. An employee should not have to risk being fired when seeking an accommodation under the ADA or because the employer perceives the employee as disabled.”

EEOC: Hershey Refused Accommodation to Disabled Employee on Return From Leave

One overriding message emerges from the recent onslaught of Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit: You, as the employer, must engage your disabled workers in a dialogue when they request an accommodation.  You don’t necessarily have to give the requested accommodation, but neither can you dismiss it out-of-hand or stiff the employee.

Now global candy manufacturer The Hershey Company must face the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in federal court over allegations that it refused to accommodate a disabled employee and fired her instead.

According to EEOC’s suit filed on July 19, Hershey was aware of Kristina Williams’s herniated discs and her lifting restrictions at the time of her hire in 2011 as a part-time retail sales merchandiser. Williams was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and took a short medical leave of absence in early 2015. The EEOC’s investigation found that when Williams requested flexibility to divide her daily break into smaller portions to help her stay within her lifting restrictions, Hershey refused to allow her to return to work, effectively suspending her for three months. Finally, in a letter dated Aug. 19, 2015, Hershey denied her request for accommodation and instead fired her.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees who have a disability. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. The Hershey Company, Civil Number 2:17-CV-01092) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The agency seeks monetary damages on behalf of Williams, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the worksite, and other injunctive relief.

“Employers cannot ignore a request for a reasonable accommodation from an employee with a disability,” said Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC’s Seattle Field Office. “The law requires an employer to explore possible solutions to ensure that a worker can perform the essential functions of her job.”

EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney John Stanley said, “Employers cannot unilaterally decide to respond to an injury by refusing to allow an employer to return to work. According to the ADA, the exploration of possible accommodations must include the input of the employee.”

According to company information, The Hershey Company is based in Hershey, Pa., employs over 20,000 people in 37 different states and had over $7.38 million in net sales in 2015, the year in which Williams last worked in the company’s Seattle District.

Taken to the Cleaners: Company Owes $16K in Settlement Over Firing of Worker With Scoliosis

How dumb is this. An employer fires a worker because his disability keeps from doing his job the way the employer wants it done, but there’s another way he could do the job if only the employer would accommodate him.

So dumb that a Michigan company that provides cleaning services decided it was better not to go to court over this one.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed this Americans With Disabilities Act on behalf of Gregory Brown against his former employer,New Image Building Services, Inc., based in Mt. Clemens, Michigan.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in September of 2013, Brown, who had scoliosis, was hired as a cleaner and assigned to trash maintenance at a Dearborn, Mich., client location. On July 23, 2014, his supervisor informed him that he would be assigned to vacuum duty, which would have required him to wear a vacuum back pack. In response, Brown told the supervisor that he could not do vacuum duty because of his scoliosis.

Rather than allow Brown to submit a doctor’s note, the supervisor issued a disciplinary write-up against Brown for refusing to perform an assigned task, and removed him from the worksite by confiscating his badge, the EEOC said. Brown was not allowed to return to the worksite; nor was he reassigned to another location.

New Image agreed to settle the lawsuit for $16,000 in back pay to Brown, the EEOC announced last Friday.

In addition to providing for the award of monetary relief to Brown, prohibits any similar discrimination in the future and requires New Image to distribute its policies on equal employment opportunity and non-discrimination to all its employees. New Image must also train its supervisors and human resources representatives on disability discrimination and reasonable accommodations under the ADA

Safeway Store Must Re-Hire, Accommodate Disabled Worker Under Terms of ADA Settlement

Had a Safeway store in Westminster, Md., done a little bit more to accommodate an employee with a lifting restriction, maybe it would have avoided being sued for disability discrimination by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

And the $27,000 settlement that ensued–and the other court-imposed conditions that attached.

According to the suit, Patricia Bonds worked as a food clerk at Safeway’s Westminster, Md., store when she sustained a work-related injury that substantially limited her in her lifting ability. Although Safeway initially accommodated Bonds’ disability by reassigning her to work at the customer service desk, the store abruptly placed her on indefinite unpaid leave, claiming that she had exhausted her time limits for modified duty. EEOC charged that Safeway refused to observe its legal duty to provide a reasonable accommodation and then unlawfully fired Bonds because of her disability.

In addition to the $27,000 in monetary relief, the three-year consent decree resolving the suit requires Safeway to rehire Bonds with her continued seniority status and to provide her with a hand scanner or other reasonable accommodation to allow her to perform the food clerk job duties.

An accommodation would have been less costly for the company.

As was pointed out in the settlement announcement, acording to the Job Accommodation Network (JAN), a service from the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Disability Employment Policy, a high percentage (59%) of accommodations cost absolutely nothing to make, while the rest typically cost only $500. Available resources to learn about reasonable accommodations include http://askjan.org and www.eeoc.gov.

EEOC: Hospital Should Have Reassigned Disabled Patient Aide to New Position

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says that employees whose disabilities keep them from performing their current job shouldn’t have to compete with other employees when seeking the accommodation of job reassignment. And so it has filed an Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit against a hospital that allegedly made an employee with a back injury do just that.

According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Adrianna Cook was hired by Methodist to assume the job of patient care technician, which involved lifting and transporting patients.  While performing this duty, Cook severely injured her back and requested a reasonable accommodation in the form of a transfer to a job that did not require heavy lifting. EEOC alleges that when a patient sitter position caring for newborns and scheduling coordinator job became available, Cook applied for these positions, which did not involve any heavy lifting.

Despite Methodist’s acknowledge­ment that she was qualified for these jobs, Cook was not given either job as a reasonable accom­mo­dation, and, as a result, the hospital terminated her, the EEOC says.

“Requiring a disabled emp­loyee to search for a vacant position for which she is qualified, then simply abandoning her in that process, is not fair or reasonable treatment,” when the employee can no longer perform a particular job due to a disability,said Toby Wosk Costas, Supervisory Trial Attorney at the Dallas District Office.  “One would hope that a healing institution such as a hospital would understand that.”

Here’s the EEOC’s Sept. 24 announcement of the lawsuit.

No Accommodation Request, No ADA Claim, Court Holds

A recent case from Maryland shows the limitations on an employer’s legal obligation to grant an employee a reasonable accommodation under the Americans With Disabilities Act.

In this case, a special education teacher turned down the offer of a temporary position to accommodate her neurological condition, was then placed on administrative leave pending a fitness-for-duty evaluation, and ultimately notified that her contract would not be renewed.

The court granted the school district summary judgment–meaning no trial–because she denied, when asked, that she needed an accommodation.

I found about this case from ofccp.blogspot.com, which has great information about the affirmative action requirements for government contractors.

This wasn’t a government contractor case-the defendant was the Anne Arundel County Public Schools–but the same principal applies to noncontractors: If the employee denies the need for an accommodation, then the employer can’t be faulted for not providing one.