Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in the United States recently announced a lawsuit against a major health care system for violating federal law by discriminating against a registered nurse in the course of her employment as well as a category of disabled employees.

According to the EEOC, the employer required employees who requested reasonable accommodations to compete for a reassignment, even with outside applicants, even when the reassignment was necessary to accommodate an employee’s disability. Further, the lawsuit alleges that the employer distorted available employment opportunities to prevent these employees from receiving accommodations in addition to retaliation against employees who requested reasonable accommodations as well as when employees complained of such discrimination. .

The lawsuit also revolves around a specific case in which the EEOC alleges that a registered nurse employed by the defendant worked for the company for more than 30 years and then requested time off due to disabilities. The employer reportedly refused to keep the position until the employee could return and posted the job as a vacant position shortly before the employee was allowed to return to work.

Upon his return, the EEOC claims that the employer refused to reinstate the employee and deleted the job offer in order to prevent the employee from applying. The employee applied for several other vacant positions, but the employer insisted that the employee also compete with any other candidate for those positions. The employer refused to simply reassign the employee to one of these alternate positions and proceeded to terminate the employee. The lawsuit alleges that the employer also subjected other employees to similar discrimination and retaliation.

If true, this behavior would be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibits both discrimination against people with disabilities and retaliation against those who oppose such behavior. Under the Act, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodation as long as it does not cause undue hardship.

The EEOC first attempted to reach a settlement through its administrative conciliation process; however, after failing, he took the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The EEOC seeks both compensatory and punitive damages, lost wages and an injunction to prohibit the employer from any future discrimination against candidates and employees.

As the EEOC clarified in this matter, it’s important to remember that employers cannot require an employee to compete with other applicants for an accommodation position. However, employers should also remember that they do not need to create a position or remove another employee from their current position in order to make an opening for an employee seeking accommodation.

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