Hospital Failed to Accommodate and Then Fired Nurse Undergoing Cancer Treatments, Federal Agency Charged
ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Angel Medical Center, Inc., a full-service critical access hospital located in Franklin, N.C., will pay $85,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that the hospital unlawfully refused to accommodate a nurse undergoing cancer treatments and subsequently fired her because of her disability.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Susan Williams began working for Angel Medical Center in December 2009 as a full-time registered nurse. In December 2011, following an absence for treatment for cancer, Williams attempted to return to work at the hospital. At the time, she was still undergoing chemotherapy treatments. According to the suit, Williams sought an accommodation that would allow her to complete the necessary chemotherapy treatments while remaining a full-time employee. The EEOC alleged that the hospital refused to accommodate Williams and instead fired her.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations unless doing so would be an undue hardship for the employer. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Bryson City Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Angel Medical Center, Inc.; Civil Action No. 2:13-CV-00034) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to monetary damages, the two-year consent decree settling the suit requires that Angel Medical Center revise its disability accommodation process policy, and provide annual training to the hospital's managers, supervisors and employees on the ADA, its reasonable accommodation requirements and the revised Disability Accommodation Process policy. Additionally, the hospital will post an employee notice concerning the lawsuit and employee rights under federal anti-discrimination laws, and will provide periodic reports to the EEOC identifying individuals who request accommodations under the ADA and the outcome those requests.
"We hope that this case reminds employers that they must accommodate disabled employees' requests for leave for medical treatment unless granting leave would pose an undue hardship," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District. "We are happy to have resolved this matter for Ms. Williams and hope that we have prevented similar situations from happening to other persons with disabilities."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. More information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.