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PRESS RELEASE
6-28-18

EEOC Sues Hawaii Medical Service Association for Class Disability Discrimination

Employees  Forced to Resign After Denial of Reasonable Accommodation, Federal Agency  Charges

HONOLULU, Hawaii - Major health  insurance provider Hawaii Medical Services Association (HMSA) violated federal  law when it denied intermittent leave to a class of employees with disabilities  without discussing other possible reasonable accommodation options. This  blanket policy forced emp­loyees to either work without an accommodation or  resign, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a  lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit,  beginning in late 2013, HMSA abruptly changed its policy on the use of  intermittent leave as an accommodation for employees with disabilities. In  addition to not allowing employees this accommodation, HMSA failed to engage in  the interactive process with its employees to determine if there was another  accommodation available for them. Instead, the company gave employees an  ultimatum of either working without an accommodation or resigning, the EEOC  said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans  with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the  District of Hawaii (EEOC v. Hawaii Medical Service Association Case No. 1:18-cv-00253) after  first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation  process. The EEOC's suit seeks back pay along with compensatory and punitive  damages for the claimant and class, as well as injunctive relief intended to  prevent and address discrimination.

 "Employers  should be cognizant of the reasonable accommodation requirements under federal  law," said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District,  which includes Hawaii in its jurisdiction. "Employers who fail to try to reach  such an accommodation arrangement are opening themselves to possible EEOC  action." 

Glory Gervacio Saure, director for  the EEOC's Honolulu Local Office, added, "Blanket employment policies that  negatively affect a group of individuals can be discriminatory. Employers  should routinely audit their policies and practices to make sure they are not unlawfully  discriminating against their employees."

According  to its website, www.hmsa.com, Hawaii Medical  Service Association is one of Hawaii's largest coverage providers, insuring  over half of Hawaii's population. HMSA is an independent licensee of Blue Cross  and Blue Shield Association.

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.