An Albuquerque nursing home was sued by the EEOC earlier this year for allegedly violating the ADA. It has now agreed to settle for $145,000. (Link: http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/12-2-14a.cfm).
An employee with diabetes and a heart condition requested “a reasonable accommodation” – an eight-hour day instead of a longer one. Instead, the EEOC said, the company fired him – while he was on approved leave and recovering from a heart attack — because of his disabilities and/or because he requested accommodation.
“The law is clear,” said the EEOC. ”Employers have a legal obligation to explore reasonable accommodations for disabilities — and limiting [plaintiff] to eight-hour days was certainly in that category. Companies cannot refuse to provide reasonable accommodations to their employees unless there is an undue hardship to the company.”
Moreover, the EEOC said at the time of the filing that “Employers have an important responsibility to honor approved leave requests and refrain from discriminating based on disability while an employee is recuperating. One would expect that health and rehabilitation companies at least would understand that. We found, after our investigation, that terminating Mr. Johnson while he was out on approved leave and obtaining medical treatment violated the ADA (emphasis added).”
The EEOC now says that “One would hope that a health and rehab center in particular would be more sensitive and attentive to the rights and needs of employees with medical conditions.”
Takeaway: You must engage in an interactive process with a requesting employee to seek a reasonable accommodation. If you don’t, especially if you are a heath care or medical facility, you are inviting EEOC intervention, if not taunting the EEOC to target you!