Sacramento Clinic Fired Nurse With Breast Cancer Over Medical Leave, Federal Agency Charges
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- Nationwide healthcare provider Dialysis Clinic, Inc. (DCI) violated federal law by firing and refusing to re-hire a long-time nurse who needed more medical leave to complete her cancer treatment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Francisca Lee had worked as a nurse at DCI's Sacramento Southgate location for 14 years when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Lee took medical leave in order to have mastectomy surgery and chemotherapy treatments. Four months later, DCI notified Lee by mail that she was being terminated for exceeding the time limit dictated by its medical leave policy, the EEOC said. This was done despite Lee being on approved medical leave and cleared by her doctor to return to work without restrictions in less than two months. Lee was told that she would have to reapply for open positions. However, when Lee did apply over two months later, she was rejected, and not long after, DCI hired a newly licensed nurse.
Terminating a qualified employee because of a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship for the employer. After attempting to resolve the case through pre-litigation conciliation efforts, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Dialysis Clinic, Inc.) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California.
"Given the ADA's mandate, I would urge employers to be flexible concerning leave extensions if it causes no undue hardship," said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo. "Ms. Lee had over 30 years' experience in dialysis treatment and really wanted to work. Our investigation showed that she only needed two more months to return to work. Why sacrifice a valuable employee with a good record over an arbitrary time limit?"
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado added, "The purpose of the ADA is to ensure that people who are qualified and able to do the job can work without prejudice against disability to hold them back. After her doctor cleared her for work, Ms. Lee was passed over in favor of a far less qualified candidate. DCI's failure to re-hire Ms. Lee because of her disability, or record of disability, violated federal law and was just plain wrong. A healing facility such as DCI should especially understand that."
According to its website (www.dciinc.org), DCI is a Nashville, Tenn.-based nonprofit corporation serving patients with advanced kidney disease. It has over 5,000 employees, and operates over 210 dialysis clinics in 27 states, including three locations in the Sacramento area.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.