Nursing Home Fired Nursing Assistant With Asthma Over Smoking Issue, Federal Agency Charged
GREENSBORO, N.C. - Camden Place Health & Rehab, LLC, a Greensboro health and rehab facility, will pay $51,000 and furnish other relief to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Yvonne Quaynor worked for Camden Place as a certified nursing assistant (CNA). Quaynor has asthma, a condition that affects her ability to breathe. The EEOC's complaint alleged that around January 2010, Camden Place began requiring all of its CNAs to supervise residents during scheduled smoking breaks. Quaynor found that the secondhand cigarette smoke that she inhaled while supervising these breaks aggravated her asthma. The EEOC said that Quaynor complained repeatedly to her supervisors that the cigarette smoke was aggravating her asthma and that in July 2010, after a particularly severe asthma attack, Quaynor brought a note from her doctor to Camden Place and asked to be excused from supervising the smoking breaks. The suit further alleged that Camden Place denied Quaynor's request and that she was subsequently fired on July 26, 2010, for refusing to supervise the smoking breaks.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees and applicants from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations. The EEOC filed suit on Dec. 2012 in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina (Civil Action No. 1:12cv1370), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to monetary damages, the two-year consent decree resolving the suit requires Camden Place to conduct training on, among other things, the ADA and its reasonable accommodation requirements; Camden Place's procedure for requesting a reasonable accommodation under the ADA; and the obligation to engage in the interactive process under the ADA when an employee requests such an accommodation. Camden Place will also post a copy of its anti-discrimination policy at its facility.
"Employers must be sensitive and reasonable about an employee's complaints about a workplace hazard to their health, and health-related facilities should be especially cognizant of this," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District, which includes the Greensboro Local Office, where the original charge of discrimination was filed. "We are pleased that Camden Place is taking action to ensure that it fulfills its obligations under the ADA."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. More information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.