Company Fired Warehouse Clerk After Surgery for a Tumor, Federal Agency Charged
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Apria Healthcare Group, Inc., an Albuquerque home respiratory services and medical equipment company, violated federal law by discharging a warehouse clerk because she had had serious tumor surgery, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed on September 18.
In its suit, the EEOC said that Apria Healthcare fired Hilda Padilla after she returned from a medical leave to remove a 23-pound tumor. The EEOC said that Padilla returned to work on July 6, 2009, only one week after she returned from a medical leave, and provided Apria with notice of her medical restrictions. After Apria learned of the seriousness of Padilla's surgery, it terminated her, the EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employment discrimination based on disability. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico (EEOC v. Apria Healthcare Group, Inc., Civil Action No.1:14-cv-00851-LAM-KBM) after attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The lawsuit asks the court to order the employer to provide Padilla with appropriate relief, including back wages and compensatory and punitive damages, and to permanently enjoin the company from engaging in any further disability discrimination. The EEOC also asks the court to order the company to institute and carry out policies and practices that eradicate and prevent disability discrimination in the workplace.
"One would hope that a health care organization would be the employer least likely to fire someone because she was recovering from serious surgery," said Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill of the EEOC's Phoenix District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arizona, Colorado, Wyoming, Utah, and parts of New Mexico, including Albuquerque. "Such conduct is not only cruel and insensitive, it's illegal, and the EEOC is here to combat it."
EEOC Area Director Derrick Newton added, "Employers have an obligation to not base employment decisions that affect people's lives upon assumptions relating to a person's disability -- or what the employer believes is a disability."
Apria Healthcare provides home respiratory services and medical equipment to patients with special needs.The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.