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PRESS RELEASE
3-7-14

EEOC Settles Disability Discrimination Suit Against Osceola Community Hospital

Consent Decree Provides $75,000 to Experienced Child Care Worker Refused Hire Because of Her Cerebral Palsy, Federal Agency Says

CHICAGO - Osceola Community Hospital in Sibley, Iowa will pay $75,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The agency had alleged that Bright Beginnings of Osceola County, a day care center operated by the hospital, unlawfully failed to hire a volunteer employee into a paid position for which she was qualified because of her cerebral palsy.  The woman who brought the charge of discrimination against the hospital already volunteered in the day care center and held a job driving a school bus.  Still, the EEOC's investigation revealed, the county refused to hire her into a paying job in the center out of an unfounded fear that her disability meant that she could not safely care for the children.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Osceola Community Hospital d/b/a Bright Beginnings of Osceola County), Civil Action No. 5:12-cv-4087 on Sept. 26, 2012 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Iowa after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. 

Judge Mark Bennett entered a consent decree on February, 28, 2014, resolving the litigation.  Under the terms of the decree, Osceola Community Hospital will pay $75,000 to the discrimination victim.  The decree also requires the hospital to institute a policy prohibiting discrimination on the basis of disability and to distribute the policy to all of its employees.  The hospital will also have to train its employees and report regularly to the EEOC on its compliance with the ADA.

"Sometimes it looks like organizations engaged in the health care field or in the performance of other 'good works' consider it impossible for them to have discriminated -- or to be challenged for having discriminated -- particularly when it comes to the ADA," said EEOC Chicago District Regional Attorney John Hendrickson.  "But our experience has been that all organizations, whatever their line of business and however they are organized, are vulnerable to falling into patterns or acts of discrimination if they do not consciously make compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws a priority.  We are optimistic that the consent decree in this case will encourage that kind of compliance."

Trial Attorney Richard Mrizek, who led the litigation for EEOC, added, "This seems to have been a case of baseless fears and stereotypes getting in the way of a highly qualified person obtaining employment, which should not happen.  The EEOC was happy to obtain justice for this individual."  

The EEOC Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment.  Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.