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Press Release 02-15-2023

EEOC Sues United Labor Agency for Disability Discrimination

Non-Profit Denied Employee With Breast Cancer Reasonable Accommodations and Forced Her to Resign, Federal Agency Charges

CLEVELAND – The United Labor Agency (ULA), a Cleveland-based non-profit that focuses on workforce development, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by discriminating against an employee based on her disability, breast cancer, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a suit filed today. The ULA denied the employee a reasonable accommodation of temporary remote work and subjected her to intolerable work conditions that resulted in her discharge, the EEOC charged.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, after ULA required its employees to return to in-person work after a long period of COVID-related telework, it denied the employee’s ADA accommodation request to remain on telework for several months while she was undergoing radiation treatments and was immunosuppressed. After being required to return to the office, the employee was repeatedly left off staff emails notifying personnel of COVID-19 exposures, despite her requests to be notified. The employee, who had been with ULA for nearly a decade, was finally forced to resign because of the risk to her health, the EEOC alleged.

The ADA prohibits discrimination based on disability. It requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations if doing so would not pose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. United Labor Agency 23-cv-00283) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio after first attempting to reach voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In the lawsuit, the EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for the employee, and equitable relief to prevent future discrimination.

“It is an employer’s responsibility to know its obligations under the ADA,” said EEOC Philadelphia Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “This includes complying with the temporary medical restrictions of employees who are receiving ongoing treatments for serious medical conditions, unless it can demonstrate that doing so would pose an undue hardship.”

Jamie Williamson, the district director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, added, “So many employees face the challenge of working while receiving lifesaving cancer treatments. When these employees request reasonable accommodations, the employer must be well-informed and engage with the employee about the request in a substantive and meaningful way before making a decision.”

The EEOC’s Cleveland Field Office is one of four offices in the Philadelphia District, which has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Attorneys in the Philadelphia District Office also prosecute discrimination cases from 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.