We have written repeatedly that the EEOC has its sights set on health care providers which allegedly violate the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”). We said on December 1, 2012 that “The EEOC has long targeted employers who allegedly violate the ADA. It seems that the health care industry is especially in the sights of the EEOC.” We cautioned the industry to do everything possible to provide reasonable accommodations to disabled employees.
But yet again, two more such providers have been sued by the EEOC for allegedly not providing to disabled employees a reasonable accommodation which posed no undue hardship to the employer. In both cases the requests were for a short leave of absence.
In the first case, the accommodation consisted of a two-week leave of absence for an employee with rheumatoid arthritis. The company denied the request and fired the employee, according to the complaint.
The second case is very similar. An Ohio medical transportation services company is alleged to have discriminated against an EMT-paramedic employee with multiple sclerosis, When the employee requested additional leave for his disability, he was disciplined for his absences, and when he requested additional points under the company’s no-fault attendance policy, he was fired.
An EEOC attorney said that “Under the ADA, once an employer learns of an employee’s disability and the need for reasonable accommodation, the employer must engage in an interactive dialogue to explore reasonable accommodation.”
In a press release, the EEOC repeated that “[o]ne of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan is for the agency to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA. The EEOC reiterates that leave can constitute a reasonable accommodation with this lawsuit.”
Note to health care folks: You are a target for the EEOC, especially for disability discrimination matters. Maybe its because there’s good PR in suing health care employers for such claims, or perhaps the EEOC smells settlement because health care providers need to protect their reputations for caring when it comes to ill or disabled people. Whatever the reason, you of all employers should be extra reasonable in dealing with employees with a disability, and in engaging in the required interactive process.