Medical Practice Fired Employee Because of Her Crohn's Disease, Federal Agency Charged
BALTIMORE - A prominent Baltimore medical practice with over 1,000 employees violated federal law when it fired a medical practice representative instead of providing unpaid leave as an accommodation of her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
The EEOC charges that Doneen King was unable to work for two weeks while undergoing medical treatment, including two emergency room visits and a hospitalization. On Jan. 7, 2010, King, a medical practice representative whose duties included answering phone calls and scheduling appointments, advised the medical practice that she had been diagnosed with Crohn's disease and she would be able to return to work the following Monday, Jan. 11. Instead of providing an additional day of unpaid leave as a reasonable accommodation to her disability, the medical practice discharged her the next day.
University of Maryland Faculty Physicians, Inc.'s lateness and attendance policy does not provide for exceptions or modifications to the attendance policy as a reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities. The company's application of its lateness and attendance policy to King denied her leave as a reasonable accommodation, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the EEOC asserted in its lawsuit.
It is a violation of the ADA to fire someone on the basis of a disability. The ADA also requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation unless the employer can show it would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Baltimore Division, Civil Action No. 1:12-cv-02887-RDB, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In its lawsuit, the EEOC seeks injunctive relief prohibiting the medical practice from discharging employees on the basis of a disability and from failing to provide a reasonable accommodation to individuals with a disability, as well as lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages and other affirmative relief for King.
"The law is crystal-clear that employers must do the right thing and reasonably accommodate an employee's disability unless that would pose an undue hardship, which certainly would not have been the case here," said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., district director of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office. "The EEOC will take strong action to protect the rights of employees with disabilities when employers ignore their legal obligations."
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "It is shocking and ironic that a large medical practice refused to help an employee with a disability and failed to provide such a simple and inexpensive reasonable accommodation-an extra day of unpaid leave-as required by federal law."
According to its website, http://www.fpi.umaryland.edu, University of Maryland Faculty Physicians, Inc. (FPI) coordinates and supports the clinical activities of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and employs over 1,000 non-physician staff who support the clinical practices of the University of Maryland faculty.
The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.