If you were a critical care hospital would you fire a nurse with cancer who asked for an accommodation to get chemotherapy? Even if you had meritorious grounds, would you do it, given the stark appearance of an ADA violation, as well as the horrendous publicity?
We wrote about such a case in a post a year ago called “Critical Care Hospital Fires Nurse Who Asked For Chemo Accommodation.” It discussed a newly-filed EEOC suit against a North Carolina full-service critical access hospital for refusing to accommodate a registered nurse’s need for cancer chemo treatments, and then firing her.
We asked then: “What were they thinking?”
We don’t know, but after a year of litigation with the EEOC, the facility has just agreed to a settlement of $85,000.
It was only a matter of time.
And an EEOC attorney underscored our constant warning that the EEOC was targeting health care facilities for alleged ADA discrimination: “One would hope that hospitals and other health care facilities would understand and respect an employee’s need for an accommodation resulting from cancer treatments.”
The EEOC Has Targeted Medical Facilities For ADA Violations For A Long Time
We have a particular penchant for, among other things, tracking new cases filed (or settled) by the EEOC accusing medical and health care providers of discriminating against people with disabilities (mainly because, as employment attorneys, we are amazed at how obtuse and oblivious some employers can be).
In that same post last year we noted that the EEOC had also just sued a Michigan operator of a chain of assisted living facilities for violating the ADA. The claim – after hiring an administrator of the new facility, the company learned from her at her physical examination that she suffered from epilepsy. What did they do? Fired her the first day that she worked.
And then, “as a postscript,” we mentioned that the EEOC had just reported that a second North Carolina health care facility agreed to pay $51,000 to settle an ADA suit brought on behalf of a certified nursing assistant with asthma who was required by a new company policy to supervise residents during smoking breaks, which made her asthma worse. She submitted a doctor’s note and requested to be excused from this chore.
She was fired.
Do Not Succumb To “Baseless Myths, Fears And Stereotypes About Persons With Disabilities
We cited EEOC attorneys who said that the EEOC “will vigorously pursue violations of the ADA when employers base their decisions on baseless myths, fears and stereotypes about persons with epilepsy,” and that “Employers must be sensitive and reasonable about an employee’s complaints about a workplace hazard to their health, and health-related facilities should be especially cognizant of this.”
We have often cautioned employers about succumbing to “myths, fears and stereotypes” when it comes to people with disabilities. See, for example, our post about an army veteran with a prosthetic hand.
When will employers listen to us?