Employee Fired for Exceeding Two-Week Maximum Leave Policy, Federal Agency Charged
RALEIGH, N.C. - Senior Care Properties, Inc., doing business as Harborview Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center, will pay $21,000 and provide 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 a certified nursing assistant with rheumatoid arthritis was denied a reasonable accommodation and then unlawfully fired by the residential rehabilitation facility because of her disability.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Senior Care Properties Inc., which operates Harborview Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Morehead City, N.C., hired Katrina Friend in 2015. Friend has rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that she managed with prescription medication. Without medication, Friend has difficulty picking up or gripping objects. In July 2015, Friend was unable to fill her prescriptions, as she had not yet received her insurance card from Harborview, and she experienced an arthritis flare-up. By August 2015, Friend resumed her medication regimen and requested four weeks of light duty to allow the medication to take effect. In response, Harborview ignored Friend's light duty request, offered her no other accommodation, and placed Friend on unpaid leave. Although the company had been informed that Friend could return to full duty at the end of the four-week light-duty period, Harborview fired Friend for exceeding the company's maximum two-week leave policy.
Such alleged conduct violates the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on a disability and requires employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Senior Care Properties, Inc. d/b/a Harborview Rehabilitation and Healthcare; Civil Action No 4:17-cv-00136-FL) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $21,000 in damages, the two-year consent decree settling the suit requires that Senior Care Properties develop a disability accommodation policy. Senior Care Properties must also provide annual training to its managers, supervisors and employees at its Morehead City location on the requirements of the ADA, including reasonable accommodation and its disability accommodation policy. Senior Care Properties will also post an employee notice concerning the lawsuit and employee rights under federal anti-discrimination laws.
"When an employee with a disability notifies his or her employer of the need for a light duty assignment or leave from work for reasons related to the disability, the employer must consider exceptions to light duty and leave policies as a reasonable accommodation," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "The ADA requires that employers provide such reasonable accommodation unless it would be an undue hardship to accommodate the employee, which in this case it certainly would not have been."
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.