Commercial Real Estate Services Company Fired Employee with Breast Cancer, Federal Agency Charges
BALTIMORE - Cushman & Wakefield refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with breast cancer and instead fired her because of her disability violating federal law, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
EEOC charges that Toi Patterson worked for Cushman & Wakefield at its Columbia, Md., facility for nine years, first as an administrative assistant and after a promotion, as a senior administrator, when she requested intermittent leave for her breast cancer treatment pursuant to the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). When she returned from her first intermittent medical leave, Paterson's supervisor advised that they "needed to talk" and that she would need to know when Patterson was going to be late or absent. Based on the supervisor's reaction, Patterson feared that the supervisor would make it difficult to use intermittent leave as needed for medical treatment, so Patterson requested continuous leave under the FMLA, according to the suit.
Prior to the expiration of her FMLA leave, Patterson requested to return to work on a part-time schedule as a reasonable accommodation for her disability and advised she might needed additional unpaid leave after her surgery. EEOC charges that Cushman & Wakefield failed to allow Patterson to work part-time and refused to discuss or provide any other reasonable accommodation to allow her to remain employed. Cushman & Wakefield instead fired Patterson because of her disability, according to the lawsuit.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of disability. The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with a disability unless the employer can show that doing so would be an undue hardship. EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division (EEOC v. Cassidy Turley Commercial Real Estate Services, Inc., trading as, Cushman & Wakefield, Civil Action No. 1:16-cv-02788-JKB), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., district director of EEOC's Philadelphia District Office, said, "Firing a woman who is courageously fighting breast cancer is adding insult to injury and is unlawful disability discrimination."
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "It not only makes good business sense to make a schedule change or provide another reasonable accommodation to allow a productive, long-term worker to remain employed-- it is also required by federal law."
One of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan is for the Commission to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA.
The EEOC Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Its legal staff also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.