- Willis-Knighton Medical Center, based in Shreveport, Louisiana, agreed to pay $450,000 to settle claims by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the healthcare provider engaged in disability discrimination, the EEOC announced Nov. 3.
- According to the EEOC’s complaint, the medical center required employees to be "fully fit for duty," or "100% healed" if they exceeded the organization’s fixed leave and light-duty cap. Employees who did not meet these criteria were fired, EEOC said, regardless of whether they could perform the functions of their jobs with or without reasonable accommodations. This was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, EEOC charged.
- In addition to settling the suit, Willis-Knighton Medical Center made a number of other changes, including rescinding its leave and light duty cap; changing its policy on reasonable accommodations; providing an internal process for reporting, investigating and resolving discrimination claims; and providing compliance training related to the ADA.
The ADA requires employers with 15 or more employees to engage in the interactive process if employees request a reasonable accommodation to perform the functions of their jobs.
In the situation outlined in the EEOC’s complaint, one employee at Willis-Knighton had physical impairments that inhibited her ability to lift objects. She requested light or limited duty as a reasonable accommodation for this disability, and the medical center allegedly refused to engage in the interactive process and terminated her employment due to her exceeding its fixed leave and light duty cap, as stated by its policy.
While employers are not obligated to approve every reasonable accommodation request, the triggering of the interactive process that occurs when an employee makes the request means that employers are responsible for engaging in a good-faith effort to meet that employee’s needs. Accommodations that do not impose an "undue hardship" to operations should be provided, according to EEOC.
Employers can avoid an ADA suit by approaching employee accommodation requests with a helpful mindset and an eye toward finding a solution, employment law experts previously told HR Dive.