In a post last March we stated:

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.

This takeaway was occasioned by an EEOC announcement of a new lawsuit against 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 EEOC alleged that two other employees – a registered nurse/supervisor and a community relations specialist – observed her walking with a cane and complained to the owner, who then fired her.

arthritis : female Senior has back pain due to heavy load

The employee’s disability substantially limited her walking and bending, but did not affect her job performance for the years that she worked at the home.

At the time, an EEOC lawyer said that “There does not seem to have been any interactive process here for the employer and employee to assess whether [the employee’s] use of a cane interfered with her ability to perform her job, or to consider some other reasonable accommodation for her disability.”

And 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 [the employee] 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.”

arthritis woman : Old Lady with walking stick - My mother at 90 years old with arthritic hands Stock Photo

Health Care Companies Are Being Targeted By The EEOC For ADA Violations 

We wearily repeated at the time that it is “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.”

Lawsuit Is Settled:  The Company Is Now Under The Watchful Eye Of The EEOC For Three Years

The EEOC has now reported a consent decree settling this suit for $30,000.

The consent decree also sets forth that the company must:  “train its management personnel and employees involved in hiring on the ADA, including reasonable accommodation, and the interactive process.  … revise its performance evaluation criteria to hold managers and supervisors accountable for failing to report, take appropriate action, or engage in the interactive process with respect to disability discrimination complaints or requests for accommodation.  … and [that it] must report complaints of disability discrimination to the EEOC during the decree’s three-year term.”

As a practical matter, the EEOC will now require the company to comply with the ADA through its three-year vigilance — something that the company should have been doing all along.

Latest Takeaway:   Pay now for failing to comply with the ADA, through ignorance or willfulness, or pay later – a heckuva lot more!