Have you heard this one from me before:
“Chalk up another healthcare provider nabbed by the EEOC for allegedly violating the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (“PDA”), an amendment to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Add this to the numerous such lawsuits brought against healthcare providers under the Americans With Disabilities Act (“ADA”).”
Well, chalk up another one – a company owning 12 nursing and health care facilities in upstate New York has just agreed to settle an EEOC lawsuit for $465,000. That’s a big hit.
The EEOC claimed that the company failed to accommodate disabled workers by denying them leave, refusing to allow disabled employees to return to work unless they could do so without medical restrictions, and subjecting employees to impermissible disability-related inquiries and medical examinations.
The EEOC also claimed that the company “fired employees on the basis of pregnancy and failed to accommodate pregnancy-related medical restrictions.”
Why is this particularly noteworthy?
I’ve written seemingly dozens of posts that the EEOC sees such health care and medical folks as fat, juicy targets — for example, accusing the helping profession of disability and/or pregnancy discrimination – a profession dedicated to treating the sick, disabled and pregnant – is sure to attract the inevitable sanctimonious media attention. I’ve cautioned healthcare providers not to call down the EEOC by treating pregnant or disabled employees disparately – it’s way too easy for the EEOC to shake its finger publicly at “the helping profession” for violating the PDA or the ADA.
The director of the EEOC’s New York District Office, said it: “Federal law makes it crystal-clear that employers have a duty to accommodate employees with disabilities. It is impermissible and unlawful to fire an employee who exhausts her leave under the Family Medical Leave Act — or other medical leave — without considering additional leave or a job modification that would enable her to return to work.”
Employers must engage in an interactive process with a requesting employee who is pregnant or who has a disability to seek a reasonable accommodation that is not unduly burdensome to you.
It isn’t all that difficult (and usually not particularly expensive) to arrive at a “reasonable accommodation” – at least compared to the cost of litigation and settlement. And in this newly-settled case, the necessary accommodations were likely way cheaper than $465,000.