Worker With Hydrocephalus Was Denied a Free Job Coach to Assist With Training, Then Fired, Federal Agency Charged
SAN DIEGO, Calif. - Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed care organization in the United States, 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.
According to the EEOC, a food service worker at Kaiser's San Diego facility has a medical condition, hydrocephalus, which causes difficulties with memory, dizziness and concentration. Upon hire, the worker requested additional training time and the assistance of a temporary job coach to effectively learn the job and perform the required job duties. A non-profit organization in San Diego specializing in assisting people with disabilities - Toward Maximum Independence (TMI) - was available to provide the temporary job coaching services free of charge to Kaiser.
The EEOC alleged that Kaiser chose to fire the worker rather than grant the reasonable accommodation request. In September 2013, the EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (EEOC v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals dba Kaiser Permanente, Case No. 3:13-cv-02062-MMA-WVG), asserting that Kaiser had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The parties entered into a two-and-a-half year consent decree to resolve the EEOC's suit. Aside from the monetary relief obtained for the victim, Kaiser agreed to appoint an equal employment opportunity coordinator to review and revise its existing anti-discrimination and accommodation policies and procedures. Kaiser further agreed to provide training on those policies and procedures to all staff, including managers, in its San Diego Service Area and to monitor and track requests for accommodation and terminations involving persons with disabilities.
Rachel Harris, executive director for Toward Maximum Independence, Inc., said, "Disability does not mean inability. Individuals are successful in the workplace when given support, reasonable accommodations, and, most importantly, when given the chance."
"We commend Kaiser Permanente for agreeing to make changes that will ensure that its handling of reasonable accommodation requests is in compliance with federal law," said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District, which includes San Diego in its jurisdiction. "So long as accommodations do not pose an undue hardship, employers must work with workers to ensure that effective accommodations are in place so that they may be fully successful in the workplace."
Marla Stern-Knowlton, local director of the EEOC's San Diego Local Office, added, "One would expect that a medical center, of all places, would be sensitive and understanding on the needs and challenges of an employee with a disability. And surely a major institution such as Kaiser, with all its resources and expertise, should have agreed to reasonable accommodations without such trouble. Regardless, the EEOC is always here to defend the rights of disabled workers."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.