Company Laid Off Warehouse Clerk After She Notified Them of Medical Restrictions, Federal Agency Charged
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Apria Healthcare Inc., a home medical provider that offers medical equipment and services in Albuquerque, will pay $100,000 to settle a lawsuit for disability discrimination filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to EEOC's suit, Apria violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by firing Hilda Padilla approximately one week after she returned from medical leave to remove a 23-pound tumor. Although the company alleged the termination was due to a reduction-in-force, Padilla was not given notice of the impending layoff, and another warehouse clerk's position was not considered for elimination, according to EEOC's suit. The company initiated its decision to lay off Padilla only two days after she provided notice of her medical restrictions. Padilla was then left without medical insurance or the ability to receive follow-up medical care after her surgery.
The ADA protects individuals with disabilities from being subjected to discrimination in the workplace. The ADA also imposes a duty upon employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities. EEOC filed its suit in U.S. District Court for the District of New Mexico (EEOC v. Apria Healthcare Inc., 1:14-CV-00851 MCA/KBM) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Not only will Apria provide Padilla with $100,000 in monetary relief, but Apria will also provide her with a letter of apology and a reference letter. The consent decree, which governs the settlement, also requires Apria to provide its New Mexico supervisors, managers, non-managerial employees and human resources employees with annual training for three years. In addition, Apria will review its current equal employment opportunity policies to ensure there is a strong and clear commitment to prevent unlawful disability discrimination, and to ensure that the policies are made available to its current workforce. For a three-year period, Apria will also report to EEOC if there are any complaints of disability discrimination or requests for accommodation in its New Mexico locations.
"The timing of the reduction-in-force in this lawsuit was suspect and it was particularly difficult for Ms. Padilla, who had not yet recovered from surgery," said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "It is important for employees to know they are entitled to request and avail themselves of reasonable accommodations to perform their essential job functions without fear of facing termination from their employment."
EEOC Albuquerque Area Director Derick Newton added, "Employment decisions cannot be based upon impermissible factors such as an individual's medical condition or disability. Instead, employers must ensure that their decisions are rooted in non-discriminatory and legitimate factors."
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.