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Press Release 02-03-2017

EEOC Sues Pioneer Health Services for Disability Discrimination and Retaliation

Mississippi Health Care Company Failed to Accommodate and Fired Disabled Employee, Federal Agency Charges

JACKSON, Miss. - Pioneer Health Services, Inc., a Mississippi company focused on rural health care, unlawfully discriminated against a social worker/therapist because of her disability when it refused to provide her with a reasonable accommodation, fired her and then retaliated against her by refusing to re-hire her after she complained, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC's suit, in July 2012, Joyce Dumas became ill and was hospitalized as a result of liver failure. During that same month, she sought, and Pioneer approved, her request for leave to cover her absence while she underwent a liver transplant. Dumas had a successful liver transplant on Aug. 2, and was slated to return to work in mid-September 2012. However, prior to her anticipated return date, Dumas requested an additional four weeks of leave to allow for her recovery from post-operative complications. Despite Dumas having more than four weeks of available sick leave, Pioneer denied the request and subsequently fired her after her company-approved leave was exhausted, according to the suit. Further, Pioneer refused to re-hire Dumas for an available social worker position after receiving notice that Dumas had filed a discrimination charge.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees and applicants from discrimination because of their disabilities. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Pioneer Health Services, Inc., Case No. 1:17-cv-00016-GHD-DAS) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi after an investigation was completed by the EEOC's Jackson Area Office and after the agency first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The suit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief.

"The ADA and Family and Medical Leave Act operate independently of each other," said EEOC District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas. "Where an employee has exhausted her FMLA leave and she requests additional leave, the employer must engage in the interactive process to determine whether additional leave under the ADA is warranted."

EEOC Regional Attorney Marsha Rucker added, "The EEOC will continue to scrutinize instances where an employer terminates its employee with a disability immediately upon expiration of that employee's medical leave. Often such employees can be reasonably accommodated with a short extension of leave that allows them to return to work."

Pioneer Health is a Mississippi corporation that provides inpatient and outpatient health care services to citizens in the communities of Aberdeen, Magee, Forest, Madison, Byram and Flowood, Miss.

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