Home Healthcare Provider Failed to Provide a Reasonable Accommodation and then Terminated Employee, Federal Agency Charged
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - Mississippi HomeCare of Picayune, a major home healthcare provider in the Picayune, Mississippi region, will pay $100,000 and enter into a consent decree with United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in settlement of a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by EEOC, the agency announced today.
EEOC brought suit on behalf of Kristy Sones, a former Mississippi HomeCare employee, who suffered an epileptic seizure while working at the facility. Returning to work following her seizure, Sones requested an accommodation to help her perform certain job-related computer tasks--tasks she was having difficulty completing because of the temporary side effects of her seizure medication. The lawsuit alleges that Mississippi HomeCare ignored Sones' request, failed to engage in an interactive process to discuss reasonable accommodations, and provided no accommodation. Mississippi HomeCare then terminated Sones less than a month after her request for an accommodation.
The Commission alleged that this conduct violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee's disability, unless the employer would suffer an undue hardship as a result. EEOC originally filed its lawsuit (Civil Action No. 1:11-cv-00355-LG -JMR) against previously identified LHC Group, Inc, d/b/a Gulf Coast Homecare in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Southern Division on September 26, 2011, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
That lawsuit was initially dismissed by the District Court on a motion for summary judgment. EEOC appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (Case No.13-60703), which reversed the District Court's decision and returned the case for further proceedings. After the remand, the parties negotiated a settlement and resolution which has now been approved by the District Court.
In addition to $100,000 in monetary relief, the two-year consent decree requires Mississippi HomeCare to provide training to its employees on its obligations under the ADA, and enjoins the company from engaging in any discrimination or retaliation on the basis of disability. The consent decree also requires the company to allow the EEOC to monitor compliance during the decree's two-year term. Finally, Mississippi HomeCare will appoint an internal consent decree monitor to ensure compliance.
"The ADA prohibits the termination of a disabled employee based on stereotypes of whether they can or cannot perform their job duties," said Harriett Johnson, senior trial attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham District Office. "The final disposition of the case means that Mississippi HomeCare can quickly begin implementing the terms of the consent decree and thereby improve working conditions for other disabled employees."
Delner Franklin-Thomas, the EEOC Birmingham District Director, said "We hope this resolution will be a lesson to companies of the importance of engaging in an individualized interactive process to determine whether a disabled employee must be accommodated under the ADA."
The EEOC's Birmingham District has jurisdiction in Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) and the Florida Panhandle.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.