Health Care Company Failed to Accommodate and Instead Fired Pregnant Employees and Employees With Disabilities, Federal Agency Charged
BUFFALO, N.Y. - Absolut Facilities Management, LLC, doing business as Absolut Care LLC, a family of nursing and health care facilities in upstate New York, will pay $465,000 and furnish other relief to settle a pregnancy and disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Absolut Care failed to accommodate disabled workers; denied leave as a reasonable accommodation to individuals with disabilities; refused to allow disabled employees to return to work unless they could do so without medical restrictions; and subjected employees to impermissible disability-related inquiries and medical examinations. The EEOC also charged that the company fired employees on the basis of pregnancy and failed to accommodate pregnancy-related medical restrictions.
All this alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Absolut Facilities Management, LLC et al., Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-01020) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
"The EEOC will continue to enforce federal laws to ensure that pregnant women and workers with disabilities are afforded equal opportunities in the workplace," said Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC's New York District Office.
Elizabeth Fox-Solomon, an EEOC trial attorney in Buffalo, added, "We appreciate Absolut Care's willingness to resolve this case before the parties spent significant time and money in litigation."
Under the consent decree settling the suit, the company will pay $40,000 in lost wages and damages to the former employee who filed the initial discrimination charge with the EEOC, and will pay $425,000 into a class settlement fund to compensate other victims. The three-year decree also requires Absolut Care to revise its leave of absence, discipline and attendance policies to comply with the ADA, and to train its corporate human resources personnel and facility HR directors and administrators on their legal obligations under Title VII (as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act) and the ADA.
Kevin Berry, director of the EEOC's New York District Office, said, "Federal law makes it crystal-clear that employers have a duty to accommodate employees with disabilities. It is impermissible and unlawful to fire an employee who exhausts her leave under the Family Medical Leave Act -- or other medical leave -- without considering additional leave or a job modification that would enable her to return to work."
Absolut Care operates a total of 12 facilities in upstate New York. There are facilities in East Aurora, Allegany, Dunkirk, Eden, Endicott, Gasport, Houghton, Orchard Park (two facilities), Salamanca, Three Rivers, and Westfield. The company has over 1,400 employees.
The EEOC's New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, northern New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The Buffalo Local Office conducted the investigation resulting in this lawsuit.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.