Human Services Provider Unlawfully Fired Employees Who Needed Medical Leave, Federal Agency Charges
WILMINGTON, Del. - Connections CSP, Inc., one of Delaware's largest non-profit organizations that provides health care, housing and employment opportunities, unlawfully denied reasonable accommodations to a class of employees and fired them pursuant to an inflexible maximum-leave policy, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Connections unlawfully enforced a fixed leave policy that did not provide reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities when, as a matter of course, it refused to provide leave beyond the 12 weeks allowed under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and fired those employees when their leave expired. The EEOC charged also that Connections denied other forms of reasonable accommodations that would have allowed qualified individuals with disabilities to remained employed, such as reassignment to vacant positions. Instead, the EEOC said, Connections also placed those employees on FMLA leave and terminated them as well when their leave expired.
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, such as modifying leave policies to grant additional unpaid leave or transferring an employee to a vacant position for which the employee is qualified, unless the employer can prove it would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Connections CSP, Inc., Case No. 1:17-cv-00862) in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
"Rigid maximum-leave policies, even if they comply with other laws, violate the ADA when the policy mandates the termination of employees," said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., director of EEOC's Philadelphia District Office. "This case should remind all employers of the need to engage in the legally required interactive process and provide reasonable accommodations, such as modifications of leave policies or transfers to vacant positions, on a case-by-case basis unless the employer can show it is a significant cost or disruption of business."
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "While employers may have leave policies that establish the maximum amount of leave an employer will provide or permit, the ADA requires that the employer modify those policies and grant additional leave as a reasonable accommodation to employees who need it because of a disability, unless the employer can prove that doing so will cause an undue hardship," Connections CSP repeatedly refused to modify its inflexible, maximum leave policy, or provide other reasonable accommodations as required by law, and that's why we filed this suit."
Addressing emerging and developing areas of law, including inflexible leave policies that discriminate against individuals with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan.
The EEOC's Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the EEOC's 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.