Getting a little boring repeating our “low hanging fruit” mantra about the EEOC targeting health care facilities for ADA violations — but it happened yet again. In fact, this new case is remarkably similar to one we discussed on December 11, 2013.
The EEOC just announced that it sued a Minneapolis-area home health care provider for failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a housekeeping employee who suffered from fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis and then firing her. The employee’s disability substantially limits her walking and bending, but did not affect her job performance for the years that she worked at the home.
However, it is alleged that in 2011 two other employees – a registered nurse/supervisor and a community relations specialist, observed her walking with a cane and complained to the owner, who fired her.
One EEOC lawyer said that “There does not seem to have been any interactive process here for the employer and employee to assess whether Goodnough’s use of a cane interfered with her ability to perform her job, or to consider some other reasonable accommodation for her disability.”
Another EEOC lawyer said: “Here’s a case where an absence of information and a reliance on stereotypes led to trouble for both employer and employee. When management heard Ms. Goodnough used a cane, it assumed that she could not do her job. So they put her on the street and the company is now in litigation – not a happy result for anyone. That’s what happens when employers fail to make analysis of job performance and available accommodations a high priority.”
Takeaway: Train your managers and staff in the ins and outs of the ADA; always engage in an interactive process re seeking a reasonable accommodation for employees with disabilities; and do not rely upon stereotypical assumptions about people with disabilities.