Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center Refused To Accommodate Long-Term Employee With Multiple Sclerosis And Denied Her Rehire, Federal Agency Charged
ST. LOUIS -- Comprehensive Behavioral Health Center (CBHC), a non-profit social service agency in East St. Louis, Illinois, will pay $309,000 to a former employee and provide other relief to settle an U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) lawsuit, the agency announced today.
The EEOC charged that CBHC, which provides emotional, rehabilitative and social support services throughout the Illinois cities of East St. Louis, Belleville and Fairview Heights, violated federal law when it refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to employee Pamela Perry and then retaliated against her by refusing to rehire her after she was laid off. Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from refusing to provide applicants and employees with reasonable accommodations unless it causes the employer an undue hardship. The law also protects employees from retaliation for requesting accommodation and complaining about violations of the law.
According to the EEOC's suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois (Civil Case No. 12-cv-1031-JPG-SCW), Perry requested permission to wear athletic shoes to work in June 2002 after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, a disability which caused numbness, pain and tingling in her feet. CBHC allowed Perry to wear athletic shoes for a few years, but later disciplined her for wearing the shoes. When Perry's symptoms worsened, she requested additional reasonable accommodations, which CBHC denied. Two days after Perry wrote a letter to CBHC complaining about its refusal to accommodate her, she was laid off. The EEOC also alleged that CBHC then retaliated against Perry by refusing to hire her when she applied for a vacant position she had performed for a majority of her 23 years of employment.
U.S. District Judge J. Phil Gilbert of the Southern District of Illinois entered the decree December 30, 2014 ending the suit. In addition to the $309,000 payment to Perry, the decree requires CBHC to undertake specified actions designed to prevent disability discrimination, including adopting, posting and disseminating anti-discrimination policies, periodic reporting to the EEOC and training management employees regarding disability discrimination.
"We are pleased that this decree provides full relief to Ms. Perry and will also prevent this type of discrimination in the future against other employees at CBHC," said Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney of the EEOC's St. Louis District. EEOC Trial Attorneys Patrick J. Holman and Jeff Lee and Supervisory Trial Attorney C. Felix Miller litigated the case on behalf of the government.
"This settlement is an important reminder to employers of their obligation to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities and to not retaliate against employees who request accommodations," added James R. Neely, director of the EEOC's St. Louis District.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and a portion of southern Illinois. Further information about the EEOC is
available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.