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Health Care Company Fires Employees with Disabilities and Pregnant Employees

In Buffalo N.Y. a small group of nursing and health care facilities, Absolut Care LLC, will pay $465,000 to settle a pregnancy and disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The suit charges Absolut Care with failing to accommodate disabled workers, denying leave as an accommodation, refusing to allow disabled employees to return to work with medical restrictions. Absolut Care subjected employees to unacceptable and intrusive inquiries and examinations regarding their disabilities. The suit further charges Absolut Care with terminating employees on the basis of pregnancy and completely failing to accommodate the medical restrictions of pregnant employees.

The facts as alleged in the suit reflect a clear violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act. Under Federal Law, employers have an affirmative duty to accommodate employees with disabilities. Medical leave may constitute a reasonable accommodation. It is illegal and unacceptable to fire an employee for using reasonable accommodations including medical leave. Prior to termination of employment, the laws require an employer to evaluate whether an employee out on an extended medical leave may be able to perform the essential functions of the job with accommodation such as additional leave or job modifications that would allow her to safely return to work.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act require employers to provide leave to employees for reasons related to pregnancy in some circumstances where the employer provides similar leaves to other employees.

As part of the settlement, Absolut Care will revise its policies on discipline, attendance and leave of absence to comply with the ADA. Absolut Care will also re-train its HR personnel on their legal obligations under Title VII (as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act) and the American’s with Disabilities Act to ensure compliance with federal law going forward.