Employee Fired for Exceeding Two Week Maximum Leave Policy, Federal Agency Charges
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A certified nursing assistant with rheumatoid arthritis was denied a reasonable accommodation and then unlawfully fired by a residential rehabilitation facility because of her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to EEOC's suit, Matthews, N.C.-based Senior Care Properties Inc., d/b/a Harborview Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Morehead City, hired Katrina Friend in 2015. Friend has rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune disorder that she managed with prescription medication. Without medication, Friend has difficulty picking up or gripping objects. In July 2015, Friend was unable to fill her prescriptions as she had not yet received her insurance card from Harborview, and she experienced an arthritis flare-up. By August 2015, Friend resumed her medication regimen and requested four weeks of light duty to allow the medication to take effect. In response, Harborview placed Friend on unpaid leave, never considered Friend's light duty request, and offered her no other accommodation. Although the company had been informed that Friend could return to full duty at the end of the four weeks for which she requested light duty, Harborview fired Friend for exceeding the company's maximum two-week leave policy.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to offer reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of North Carolina, Eastern Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Senior Care Properties Inc. d/b/a Harborview Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center; Civil Action No. 4:17-cv-00136-FL) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay for Friend along with compensatory damages, punitive damages, and injunctive relief.
"Employees with disabilities may require light duty assignments or leave from work to manage disability-related medication or other treatment so they can continue to work," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "Employers must consider exceptions to light duty and leave policies when necessary to comply with the ADA's mandate to reasonably accommodate workers with disabilities."
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.