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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
12-14-11

Vitas Healthcare Sued By EEOC in Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Company Forced Hospice Nurse to Compete for a Vacant Position Instead of Reassigning Her and Permitting Her to Continue to Do Her Job, Agency Charged

MIAMI – A Miami health care company  violated federal disability discrimination law when it refused to reasonably  accommodate an employee who had hypertension, the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to the EEOC’s  suit, registered nurse Eveline Chery started working for Vitas Healthcare Corporation in August  2007. As a hospice nurse, she was  generally required to visit several nursing homes per day, which required  extensive driving. Chery has  hypertension, which was exacerbated by the extensive driving she did for  work. Chery asked to be reassigned to a  vacant hospice nurse position which did not require extensive driving. However, Vitas does not reassign disabled individuals into vacant positions as an  accommodation for which they would be otherwise qualified and, instead,  requires them to compete among all other applicants for the vacancy. Therefore, Chery was forced to compete for  the position, which would have allowed her to continue her nursing work, and  she was unsuccessful in obtaining it.

The EEOC filed suit against Vitas (EEOC  v. Vitas Healthcare Corp., Case No. 1:11-cv-24481-KMM) in U.S.  District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleging in its complaint  that Vitas’s failure to accommodate Chery violated the Americans with  Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended by the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments  Act of 2008 (ADAAA). The EEOC filed suit  after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its  conciliation process. The agency is  seeking back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for Chery, injunctive  relief to prevent and correct disability discrimination and training of Vitas’s  managers and employees about equal employment opportunity laws.

“Workplace flexibility and reassigning qualified employees with  disabilities not only make good business sense in the 21st century, it is  required by federal law,” said Malcolm Medley, director of the EEOC’s  Miami District Office. “The EEOC will continue to protect employees  against such unlawful discrimination.”

“Employers  have the obligation under the ADA to reasonably  accommodate disabled individuals, including reassignment to a vacant position,”  added Robert Weisberg, the EEOC’s Miami  regional attorney. “It is a violation of  federal law to discriminate against employees because they have a disability,  including the failure to provide reasonable accommodations which permit qualified  individuals with a disability to continue their employment.”

The EEOC is  responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. The Miami District Office’s jurisdiction  includes Florida, Puerto  Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.  Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.