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Press Release 10-01-2021

EEOC Sues Geisinger Health and Affiliates for Disability Discrimination and Retaliation

Health System Failed to Reasonably Accommodate Class of Workers with Disabilities, Federal Agency Charges

PHILADELPHIA – Geisinger Health, Geisinger Health System Foundation doing business as Geisinger Health System, Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center, and affiliates (collectively, “Geisinger”), violated federal law when they discriminated against a registered nurse and a class of employees because of their disabilities, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Geisinger requires employees with disabilities to compete for reassignment to a new position even when reassignment is needed as a reasonable accommodation for an employee’s disability. Geisinger also misrepresents and manipulates employment opportunities to prevent employees with disabilities from obtaining accommodations, retaliates against employees who ask for accommodations or complain about discrimination, and otherwise interferes with employee rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the EEOC said.

According to the suit, a registered nurse at the Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center had worked for the company for more than 30 years when she lost her job because she needed leave for a disability. Geisinger refused to hold her job open until she could return to work and posted her position as a vacancy shortly before she was expected to return from leave. When the nurse was released to come back to work, Geisinger refused to return her to her old position and took down the job posting so she couldn’t apply, the EEOC alleged.

Although the nurse applied for numerous vacant positions with Geisinger for which she was qualified after that, Geisinger required her to compete with all other applicants for those positions, failed to reassign her to any of them as a reasonable accommodation, and then fired her. According to the suit, Geisinger subjected a class of employees to similar disability discrimination and retaliation.

Such alleged conduct violates the ADA, which prohibits disability discrimination and retali-ation for opposing it, and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities unless it would cause an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Geisinger Health et al., Case No. 2:21-cv-04294) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its administrative conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking permanent injunctive relief prohibiting Geisinger from discriminating against applicants or employees because of disability in the future, lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other relief.

“Employers must be aware that requiring employees who need reassignment to compete for positions just like any other applicant is not an accommodation,” said EEOC District Director Jamie R. Williamson of the agency’s Philadelphia District.

Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence added, “Instead of accommodating employees with disabilities, Geisinger employs policies and maneuvers designed to dis-courage employees from asking for an accommodation and to force them out of the Geisinger workforce when they do. Such retaliation and interference with employees’ rights under the ADA cannot be tolerated.”

EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. The legal staff of EEOC also prosecutes discrimination cases in Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.