The previous owner of an Oak Park, Illinois hospital will be required to pay $150,000 in settlement for a disability discrimination lawsuit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced.
The EEOC alleges that the hospital violated federal civil rights laws by failing to provide a radiology technician employed by the center with a reasonable accommodation, specifically a part-time schedule. Instead, the hospital insisted that the employee use unpaid leave, which the agency alleges it kept the employee on even after the reasonable accommodation would no longer have been needed. According to the lawsuit, this continued until the hospital chose to fire the employee.
If true, this would violate the American’s with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA prohibits discrimination resulting from disabilities, including failing to provide reasonable accommodations. Under the ADA, if an employee with a disability is still able to perform their job with an accommodation that would not pose an undue hardship to the employer, the employer must grant necessary “reasonable” accommodations.
However, according to the EEOC, the employer insisted that the employee could not return until they were fully well. In response, the EEOC first attempted to settle the case through the agency’s conciliation process; however, after failing to reach a settlement, the agency filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.
The EEOC first had an affiliate of the hospital named as the defendant in the case before substituting the hospital’s owners at the time in which the disability discrimination occurred. Later on, the agency additionally alleged that the hospital’s current owner also became liable for the previous owner’s discrimination as its successor.
The suit ended with a settlement mandating a four-year consent decree in which the hospital’s former owner is required to pay the ex-employee a sum of $150,000. The current owner of the facility and the affiliate will also be jointly and severally liable for paying this monetary relief. Additionally, should the former owner of the hospital choose to begin operations in another facility within the state of Illinois, it will be required to create new policies concerning disability discrimination under the ADA and reasonable compliant accommodations as well as to provide such facilities with annual training about the Act. Finally, they would also need to keep records of any employer requests for reasonable accommodations and to report these to the EEOC.
This case shows the risks of failing to provide reasonable accommodations. Whenever an employee requests an accommodation, it is essential to immediately begin documenting the process, which should begin with collecting information and engaging in the interactive process with the employee. During this process, the employer can find if any reasonable accommodations can be granted.