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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
7-29-11

EEOC Lawsuit Challenges Disability Discrimination at South Dakota Non-Profit

Senior Citizens Planning Council Fired Woman Because of Cancer, Federal Agency Charged

ABERDEEN, S.D. – The Area IV Senior Citizens Planning Council, Inc., a non-profit organization based in Aberdeen, violated federal civil rights laws by regarding an employee suffering with cancer as disabled and firing her for that reason, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s complaint, Area IV terminated Eileen Job in 2008 when she sought to return to work after surgery for colon cancer. The EEOC alleges that Job was fully able to perform her duties as a kitchen assistant at Area IV’s Bowdle, S.D., location. According to the EEOC, in firing Job, Area IV cited possible symptoms that could result from her course of chemotherapy treatments.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees and applicants from discrimination based on disabilities. The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of South Dakota (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Area Four Senior Citizens Planning Council, Inc.; Civil Action No. 11-1022 CBK), was brought only after the agency first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement with the employer through the EEOC’s conciliation process. In this case, the EEOC is seeking injunctive relief barring any future discrimination, and will seek back pay and compensatory and punitive damages on Job’s behalf.

“While Area IV’s mission as a non-profit is a valuable one, non-profit organizations must abide by the same laws as every other employer,” said John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, which has jurisdiction over South Dakota. “Our investigation showed that Area IV failed to put Eileen Job back to work because of fears, stereotypes and assumptions – none of which are legal grounds to make employment decisions.”

Area IV is a South Dakota non-profit organization based in Aberdeen that provides meals for senior citizens. It operates sites in 36 South Dakota communities and is funded through federal and state grants as well as local donations.

The EEOC’s legal team in its Minneapolis Area Office will conduct the litigation under the management of the agency’s Chicago District Office. That office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.