U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Employee Fired Because of Her Disability, Agency Charges
HENDERSON, N.C. - Britthaven, Inc. and its successor, Principle Long Term, Inc., operators of a nursing and rehabilitation center in Henderson, N.C., discriminated against an employee with a disability and then unlawfully discharged her, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. Britthaven, Inc. operated a nursing and rehabilitation center known as "Britthaven of Henderson" until December 2010, at which time the operation was transferred to Principle Long Term, Inc. and the name of the facility was changed to "Kerr Lake Nursing and Rehabilitation Center."
EEOC's complaint alleges that Nicky Thomas was hired by Britthaven, Inc. as a cook on September 25, 2009. In February 2010, Thomas was diagnosed with breast cancer. Thomas informed her supervisor of her diagnosis. The complaint further alleges that around October 28, 2010, Thomas was required to take medical leave so that she could undergo surgery to treat her breast cancer. Her doctor provided a note indicated that she would need 4 to 6 weeks of leave, which EEOC alleges was approved by the company. At a post-surgery visit to her doctor on November 10, 2010, Thomas was told that she could not return to work until December 10, 2010. The complaint states that Thomas submitted a doctor's note to her supervisor, stating that Thomas needed to take additional leave, until December 10, 2010, due to her medical condition. The complaint further alleges that on November 29, 2010, Thomas was informed that her request for one additional month of medical leave had been denied and she was being terminated for failing to report to work.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to provide disabled employees with a reasonable accommodation. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Britthaven, Inc. d/b/a Britthaven of Henderson and Principle Long Term Care, Inc. d/b/a Kerr Lake Nursing & Rehabilitation Center; Civil Action No.5:12-CV-00818) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief.
"Although it has been more than 20 years since the passage of the ADA, employers still need to be reminded that employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations which do not pose an undue hardship," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.