Here’s a word of advice of what not to do: If you suspect an employee has cancer, think twice before you let them go. That could only bring you misery in the form of an ADA violation and lawsuit, like this one.
A title clerk worked for car dealers Victory Automotive Group Inc. and Cappo Management XXIX in Sacramento. She was fired after she missed a few days of work because she got sick. She then told her employers she was in the hospital and was being tested for cancer.
A day before she returned to work, she was fired. And she had a medical release saying she could go back to work and perform her job.
Her termination letter told her to “focus on her health” and assured her the termination wasn’t due to her performance.
Clear ADA violation
This was a clear violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on a disability or a perceived disability.
Initially, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) tried to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, but it was a no go. So, on Nov. 10, 2020, the EEOC filed a lawsuit against Victory and Cappo.
Now, after losing the lawsuit, the car dealers must:
- pay $150,000 in lost wages and emotional distress damages to the fired employee
- hire an ADA consultant that will help them revamp their policies and training practices
- implement policies and procedures that’ll provide reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities
- provide annual training to certain managers and human resource personnel
- require secondary reviews on all leave-based terminations, and
- submit reports to the EEOC during the decree’s three-year term.
Have some empathy
“Federal law prohibits employers from terminating individuals purely out of fear that those individuals may have a disability,” said EEOC San Francisco District Director Nancy Sienko. “We commend these employers’ willingness to promptly resolve this lawsuit, and to implement robust ADA policies and procedures.”
Don’t jump to conclusions about what an employee can and can’t do when they get sick. Get it straight from their and their doctor’s mouths.
A lot of time and money could have been saved had the employers just talked to the clerk and worked with her on a possible leave or use of her sick time.
Cases like this need to be handled with empathy and understanding, not a firing.