Federal Agency Obtains $340,000 for Health Care Workers Denied Hire Due to Latex Allergy Test Results
SAN FRANCISCO – John Muir Health, a health care system with hospitals and other medical facilities throughout Contra Costa County, agreed to pay $340,000 to eight health care workers and to implement preventative measures to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The settlement resolves the EEOC’s suit, which had charged that John Muir withdrew job offers to seven nurses and one lab technician based on workplace restrictions imposed by independent doctors contracted by John Muir to conduct pre-employment health screenings. John Muir assumed that the eight workers had life-threatening latex allergies and could not safely work in a hospital setting. Subsequently, however, some of the workers were independently evaluated by board-certified allergists, who concluded that they did not have an allergy or sensitivity that would preclude them from working safely in hospital settings. All eventually continued to work in the health care profession, the EEOC said.
“ John Muir's efforts and new policy, asagreed to in this resolution, are a win-win for both the employer and employees,” said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo. “Excludingcandidates from hire based on well-intentioned but unfounded fears for their safety violates federal law. We applaud the company's willingness to address latex-related issues in the hiring process. ”
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado added, “ The Americans With Disabilities Act requires all employers to ensure that job candidates are not excluded based on a disability or perceived disability. We appreciate John Muir’s commitment to reach a fair resolution of this case. ”
Pursuant to the consent decree executed by Judge Phyllis Hamilton today, John Muir will also revise its policies to ensure safeguards against potential latex-related disability discrimination. For example, employment candidates determined to have latex sensitivities will be evaluated by an allergist to determine what work restrictions, if any, may be appropriate. The company also will provide staff training on evaluating whether workers with latex sensitivity can be accommodated. In addition, John Muir agreed to report to the EEOC concerning any complaints of disability discrimination and/or retaliation as well as any job restrictions placed upon applicants and employees with latex allergies.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from refusing to hire people based on a disability, whether perceived or actual. The EEOC brought the lawsuit against John Muir Health after an investigation conducted by EEOC investigator Martin Scheir and after first attempting to reach voluntary settlement out of court.
According to the company website, www.johnmuirhealth.com, John Muir Health is a non-profit that employs approximately 2,400 people at its two primary hospitals in Walnut Creek and Concord.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.