Center Fired Employee After She Sought Medical Treatment to Manage Depression and Panic Attacks, Federal Agency Charges
CHICAGO - Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center, Inc. (BEW Center) violated federal law by failing to accommodate and then firing an employee with a mental health disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed yesterday. BEW Center is a health center located in Chicago that provides services to persons with mental health, behavioral, emotional, and substance abuse problems.
According to the EEOC suit, BEW Center refused to accommodate the employee who requested time off to seek treatment her depression and panic attacks from her doctor. Instead, the EEOC said, BEW Center required the employee be treated by its doctor. The EEOC also alleged that BEW Center discharged the employee because of her disability.
The EEOC filed suit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement with BEW Center through its conciliation process. The case, EEOC v. Bobby E. Wright Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center, Inc., N.D. Ill. No. 12-cv-07695, was filed Sept. 26 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, and has been assigned to District Judge Milton Shadur. Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason and Trial Attorney Brandi Davis will litigate the case on behalf of the EEOC.
"Mental health disabilities have long been misunderstood by society," said John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the EEOC's Chicago District Office. "Unfortunately, this leaves people with mental health disabilities vulnerable to discrimination. Employers must recognize that simple accommodations like a short time off work can open the door for employment for these people. Of all employers, one would expect a center focused on mental health to understand this."
The EEOC Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.