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Disability Discrimination in the Workplace

Posted on February 19, 2014 in Disability Benefits, Discrimination & Harassment

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently filed a complaint against a hospital for terminating an employee with a disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), due to disability discrimination in the workplace.   The employee had breast cancer and required a leave of absence to receive treatment.  After six months of leave the hospital rejected a return to work notice from the employee’s doctor which set a return to work date of September 1, 2012.  The employer terminated the employee stating that her continued absence created “an undue business hardship.”  Prior to terminating the employee the hospital did not consider any alternative accommodations, including reassignment to other positions which had been advertised as vacant. The EEOC commented about this case, stating:

Treating a qualified employee unfavorably because of a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The law also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer. After attempting to resolve the case through pre-litigation conciliation efforts, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Children's Hospital and Medical Center, Case No. CV 13-5715) in the Oakland Division of U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages on behalf of Tamayo, as well as an injunction to prevent further discrimination.

While the complaint does not specifically state that extra leave should have been granted, it does point out that the hospital did not explore alternative accommodations.  This seems to suggest that even if extra leave would have created an undue burden an employer has a duty to explore other alternative accommodations that would alleviate that burden prior to terminating a disabled employee.  Reassigning an employee with a disability to a vacant position is one such alternative accommodation that must be explored to prevent disability discrimination in the workplace. If you have a disability and need accommodations at work the attorneys at Lebau and Neuworth may be able to help.  We are experienced at handling claims such as these.  For more information contact us at: http://lebauneuworth.com/.   disability discrimination, reasonable accommodation

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