Press Release 09-01-2020

Aspire Health Partners Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination

Behavioral Health Care Organization Refused to Hire Former Employee Due to Her Prior Workplace Injury, Federal Agency Charges

TAMPA, Fla. – Aspire Health Partners, a non-profit behavioral healthcare organization head­quartered in Orlando, Fla., violated federal law by refusing to hire a former employee based upon medical records in her workers’ compensation claim file, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, the employee worked for Aspire for over 20 years, during which she developed and oversaw Aspire’s Village House program and received numerous awards for her work. Aspire terminated the employee after she suffered from a workplace injury and exhausted her medical leave. After her doctor cleared her to work without restrictions, she applied for a position within the same program. Hours before her interview, the former employee was notified that she was ineligible for rehire at Aspire due to her prior workers’ compensation file. Even after she reached out to Aspire’s chief operating officer, she was not allowed to interview for the position, the EEOC said.

Disability discrimination violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida, Orlando Division (EEOC v. Aspire Health Partners, Case No. 6:20-cv-1603) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settle­ment through its concili­ation process. The agency seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the former employee. The suit also seeks injunctive relief to prevent and correct disability discrimination and training of Aspire’s human resources officials about federal equal employment opportunity laws.

“This employee applied for a position within the very program she developed, and was not even afforded an interview,” said Robert E. Weisberg, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District. “It is unfair, and against the law, for an employer to deny an employee a position because of a prior disability. With this suit, the EEOC continues to seek vigorous enforcement of the laws that protect people from this kind of intentional and harmful discrimination.”

The EEOC’s Tampa Field Office Director Evangeline Hawthorne added, “Employers must ensure that workers are not denied opportunities based on inaccurate conclusions about their physical abilities. On the 30th anniversary of the ADA, the EEOC remains committed to taking legal action against those who engage in such unlawful tactics.”

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.