EEOC slaps two employers for mishandling disability accommodation requests

When an employee asks for an accommodation for a disability, the EEOC expects management to go through the full process of determining whether or not a reasonable arrangement can be made. Two health-related firms recently learned that lesson the hard way.  
Brookdale Senior Living Communities, Inc. of Denver will pay $112,500 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit, the agency announced.
Bernadine Adams worked for Brookdale as a health and wellness director.  After Adams took leave from work due to symptoms of fibromyalgia, Brookdale refused her request for a temporary modified work schedule, an ergonomic chair, and adjustments to the lighting in her office, the EEOC alleged.
Brookdale also required Adams to remain on leave until she was able to return to work without any restrictions or accommodations.  After further requests for accommodation and a discrimination charge, Brookdale fired Adams via letter.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado after efforts to reach a settlement failed. After the lawsuit was filed, however, the company agreed to:

  • pay $112,500 to Adams to resolve the case
  • train employees and district managers on the ADA’s requirements, including the need to provide reasonable accommodation to qualified individuals with disabilities, and
  • report to EEOC if there are any further complaints of disability discrimination or retaliation.

The court approved the settlement and will retain jurisdiction for purposes of compliance for two years.
According to its website, Brookdale Senior Living operates 1,150 communities nationwide, offering independent living, assisted living, dementia care and skilled nursing, with 80,000 associates serving about 100,000 residents.

Price tag for refusing ‘interactive process’: $100K

In a somewhat similar case, Mississippi HomeCare of Picayune, a major home healthcare provider in the Picayune, MS area, will pay $100,000 and enter into a consent decree to settle an EEOC disability bias lawsuit.
EEOC brought suit on behalf of Kristy Sones, a former Mississippi HomeCare employee, who suffered an epileptic seizure while working at the facility. Returning to work following her seizure, Sones requested an accommodation to help her perform certain job-related computer tasks — tasks she was having difficulty completing because of the temporary side effects of her seizure medication.
The lawsuit alleged that Mississippi HomeCare ignored Sones’ request, failed to engage in an interactive process to discuss reasonable accommodations, and provided no accommodation. Mississippi HomeCare then terminated Sones less than a month after her request for an accommodation.
In addition to $100,000 in monetary relief, the two-year consent decree requires the employer to provide training to its employees on its obligations under the ADA, and enjoins the company from engaging in any discrimination or retaliation on the basis of disability. The consent decree also requires the company to allow the EEOC to monitor compliance during the decree’s two-year term.