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PRESS RELEASE
9-11-14

EEOC Sues McLeod Health for Disability Discrimination

Non-Profit Medical Institution Subjected Employee to Illegal Medical Examinations And Fired Her in Violation of Federal Law, Federal Agency Charges

FLORENCE, S.C. - McLeod Health, Inc., a South Carolina regional health care organization that operates several medical facilities around Florence, S.C., unlawfully subjected an employee to illegal medical examinations, forced her to go on leave and subsequently fired her because of her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC's complaint, Cecelia Whitten has congenital orthopedic abnormalities that, since birth, have caused her to have difficulty standing for long periods, walking long distances and keeping her balance. Whitten began working for McLeod Health in 1984 as a communications specialist. In 2012, McLeod required Whitten to submit to two medical examinations as a result of symptoms related to her disability. Whitten was placed on leave pending the completion of the medical examinations. As a result of one of the medical examinations, McLeod's Occupational Health Department recommended certain job accommodations for Whitten. Around Aug. 13, 2012, McLeod informed Whitten that she could not return to work in her position as a communications specialist because McLeod could not provide her with certain job accommodations. The EEOC said that despite the fact that Whitten could perform her job duties, McLeod did not allow her to return to work but rather fired her on Feb. 12, 2013 when she exhausted her Family and Medical Leave Act leave.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees and applicants from discrimination based on their disabilities. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Florence Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. McLeod Health, Inc.; Civil Action No.4:14-CV-03615-RBH-TER) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its administrative conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief.

"All employers must understand the importance of treating people fairly despite whatever physical challenges they may face," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "In this case, Ms. Whitten had been performing her job for almost 30 years, when she was fired because of assumptions associated with her disability. The EEOC is here to fight for the rights of people like Cecelia Whitten."

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.