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.