U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
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.