Company Fired Employee Over Osteoarthritis Issues, Federal Agency Charges
MILWAUKEE – GGNSC Administrative Services, Inc., a centralized billing and collections office for nursing homes, violated federal law by firing an employee while she was on approved medical leave because of her disability and failing to explore potential accommodations, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed yesterday.
The EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No. 2:12-cv-00238) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin) alleged that GGNSC violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by terminating Mary Benford, a collections specialist, when she requested an extension of her medical leave for treatment of osteoarthritis in her left knee. After receiving the request for an extension of leave, GGNSC terminated Benford, even though at the time she was still on an approved leave. Further, the agency said that GGNSC failed to engage in the required interactive process to discuss accommodation alternatives with Benford; instead, it fired her with no warning.
Such alleged conduct violates the ADA, which requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation of an employee’s disability unless the employer would suffer an undue hardship as a result. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process. The agency’s lawsuit seeks, among other things, monetary relief in the form of back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and a permanent injunction enjoining GGNSC from further discriminating on the basis of disability.
“GGNSC terminated Ms. Benford, a four-year employee, simply for requesting the accommodation of a 3.5 week extension of her medical leave,” said John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District. “A company is legally obligated to work toward reasonable accommodations with its employees.”
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, and operates Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.