Health Care Staffing Agency Fired Employee Following Request for Reasonable Accommodation, Federal Agency Charged
BALTIMORE - Dependable Health Services Inc., a health care staffing agency, will pay $38,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the suit, Sheena Berry began working as a phlebotomist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md., in March 2016 and continued employment with Dependable Health Services when the company acquired the medical services contract at Walter Reed. Berry requested a reasonable accommodation of not staffing mobile blood drives due to sickle-cell anemia-related pregnancy complications. Dependable Health Services initially refused to provide the accommodation but later did so by temporarily transferring Berry to the out-patient phlebotomy department, EEOC said.
While on maternity leave, Berry provided several status updates to Dependable Health Services. Berry requested a permanent reasonable accommodation reassignment to a position that did not require mobile blood drive staffing. EEOC charged that on February 24, 2017, Berry informed Dependable Health Services of her planned return to work on February 28, 2017. Dependable Health Services abruptly terminated Berry effective February 27, 2017 stating a decision "to have [Berry's] position backfilled effective immediately."
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability. The ADA also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations unless the employer can prove it would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Dependable Health Services, Inc., Civil Action No. 8:17-cv-02316) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Greenbelt Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $38,000 in monetary relief, Berry will receive a favorable letter of recommendation. The five-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins Dependable Health Services from violating the ADA, including refusal to provide reasonable accommodations. The owner of Dependable Health Services will distribute a memorandum to all employees emphasizing a commitment to ADA compliance, along with a copy of the company's revised reasonable accommodations policy. It will also provide ADA training to all managers, supervisors and human resources employees. Dependable Health Services will also report to the EEOC on how it handles any complaints of disability discrimination and post a notice regarding the settlement.
"We are pleased Dependable Health Services worked with us to resolve this matter amicably," said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. "In addition to the monetary relief to Ms. Berry, this settlement provides substantial equitable measures to protect all employees and applicants from disability discrimination."
District Director Kevin Berry added, "Firing an employee is never a good response to a reasonable accommodation request. This settlement should encourage all employers to engage in the interactive process to keep qualified individuals with disabilities working, including reassignment to a vacant position if necessary."
The EEOC's Baltimore Field Office is one of four offices in the Philadelphia District, which has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
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.