Employer Refused to Accommodate and Terminated Long-Term Employee With Temporary Work Restrictions, Federal Agency Charges
ST. LOUIS - The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today filed suit in federal court against Audrain Medical Center in Mexico, Mo., charging that the center violated federal law by refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a nurse with neuralgia and then firing her because of the disability.
The nurse, Cynthia Hodges, who had worked for Audrain for 17 years, had neuralgia and returned from leave authorized under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) with a 10-pound lifting restriction for a six-week period. When Audrain refused to accommodate her restrictions, Hodges requested additional unpaid leave for six weeks as an accommodation for her disability. The accommodation would have allowed her to return to work without restrictions on June 2, 2009. Audrain refused to grant her the additional leave or to explore any other accommodations, without explanation, and ultimately terminated her.
"Actions speak louder than words," said EEOC Regional Attorney Barbara Seely. "The company refused to explain why it could not grant a 17-year employee an additional six weeks of unpaid leave. It obviously would not have created a staff shortage, because Ms. Hodges was not replaced until well after her contemplated return-to-work date."
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees from discrimination based upon their disability. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri (Case No. 2:12-CV-00073) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Audrain Medical Center employs approximately 500 people and serves primarily Mexico, Mo. and surrounding communities.
The EEOC enforces the ADA and other federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.