In 2014, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a disability discrimination complaint against a hospital for terminating an employee with a disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”).
The employee had been an office associate for the Oakland Children’s Hospital and Research Center for two years when she received a diagnosis of breast cancer. She was required to take leave from her employment in order to receive treatment for her cancer. When, six months later she informed the hospital that she was ready to return to work, the hospital terminated her employment, citing her absence as an “undue business hardship.”
Treating an otherwise qualified employee unfavorably because of a disability expressly violates the ADA, which also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability. However, the employer does not have to comply with this requirement if it can prove that doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense. In the case of the hospital employee, the EEOC strongly maintains that the necessary accommodations were neither difficult nor a significant expense. Further, the EEOC claims that firing employees with disabilities who may need more medical leave than dictated by company policy violates federal law.
The ADA requires employers to engage in an interactive process to determine what accommodations would be reasonable under the circumstances. Meaning that even if extra medical leave would create an undue burden, an employer has a duty to explore other alternative accommodations that would alleviate that burden prior to terminating a disabled employee.
If you or a loved one have a disability and need accommodation or have been unfairly terminated due to that disability, contact an experienced employment attorney. A skilled attorney will afford you the representation you deserve and ensure your legal rights are protected.