U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Kansas City Property Management Company Refused to Grant an Employee's Request for a One-Week Extension of Medical Leave to Recuperate From Surgery
ST. LOUIS - Kessinger Hunter Management (KHM), a national commercial property management company with its primary corporate offices in Kansas City, Mo., violated the law when it declined to grant a one-week extension of an employee's medical leave and refused to him a reasonable accommodation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to EEOC's suit, after KHM granted Richard Shipe an unpaid 30-day leave of absence to recover from surgery, it refused to extend the leave because the extension would violate its 30-day maximum medical leave policy. Shipe requested, as a reasonable accommodation, a short extension of his leave to comply with his doctor's orders, but KHM denied his request and subsequently fired him.
This alleged conduct violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for known disabilities.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri (EEOC v. Kessler Hunter Management Co., Inc., Case No. 4:17-cv-809) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks declaratory judgment that KHM's strict adherence to its maximum 30-day leave policy when a disabled employee needs a short extension as a reasonable accommodation violates the ADA. The EEOC also seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for Shipe, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent and address future employment discrimination based on disability and to bring the company into compliance with federal law.
"Setting maximum leave policies for employees with disabilities fails to follow the letter of the law as well as the ADA's intended purpose," Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for EEOC's St. Louis District, said. "It not only robs employees of an opportunity to work to support themselves and their families, it also causes businesses to lose valuable employees and their experience."
James R. Neely, Jr., director of the EOC's St. Louis District Office, added, "A rigid rule is no substitute for thinking about the unique circumstances of a specific employee and how he or she can be accommodated."
According to its website, KHM is a commercial real estate management firm that has been in business since 1879. It manages properties throughout the United States, Canada and Europe and its headquarters is in Kansas City, Mo.
The St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and a portion of southern Illinois.
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