Nursing Home Turned Away Applicant Because of Prescribed Medication for Epilepsy, Federal Agency Charged
PORTLAND, Ore. – An assisted living and nursing home facility in Vale, Ore., violated federal law when it refused to hire an applicant with a disability for which she took a prescription medication, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC, Pioneer Place Assisted Living refused to hire Pamila Bourasa for a cook position due to the results of her drug test, even though she had explained beforehand that she was taking a prescription medication for her epilepsy. Bourasa had already completed a positive interview with Pioneer and had discussed a start date. When informed that she needed to pass a drug test before beginning work, Bourasa mentioned that she had epilepsy and was taking a prescription medication that would show up on the drug test. Reassured that would not be a problem, she had already given notice at her old job when Pioneer Place informed her that she would not be hired due to her drug test results.
“I was devastated by this experience,” said Bourasa, who has more than 40 years experience in the restaurant industry and experience in an assisted living facility. “I assumed that nowadays individuals with disabilities would have a fair shake in the workplace. In the 80s, I was fired from a job because of my epilepsy – there was no ADA to protect me then. Since then, I have found a medication that really works, and I have not had a seizure since. I was completely shocked that Pioneer would label a prescribed medicine for my disability as a violation of their ‘drug-free workplace’ policy.”
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from using selection standards or criteria which screen out individuals with disabilities. After investigation and first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through conciliation, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Pioneer Nursing Home Health District, d/b/a Pioneer Assisted Living) in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon, and seeks monetary damages on behalf of Bourasa and injunctive relief to correct the alleged illegal work practices.
EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, “The ADA protects workers with disabilities from being excluded based on misinformation and stereotypes. Employers must individually evaluate the specific case in front of them. In this instance, Ms. Bourasa worked successfully for years while taking her prescription medication, but Pioneer simply rejected her out of hand.”
Michael Baldonado, the EEOC’s San Francisco District Office director, added, “Ms. Bourasa informed Pioneer of her use of medication prescribed by her doctor for her disability and the likelihood that it would show up on her drug test. Pioneer’s unlawful application of its ‘drug-free workplace’ policy resulted in discrimination and caused it to lose out on a capable, experienced worker.”
Pioneer Place Assisted Living offers full-service assisted living facilities including nursing care, long-term care skilled nursing, and rehabilitation services in Vale, Ore.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Additional information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.