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Press Release 01-07-2020

Hawaii Medical Service Association to Pay $180,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

 Hawaii's Largest Health Insurance Company Failed to Comply with the ADA, Federal Agency Charges

Hilo, Hawaii - Hawaii Medical Service Association (HMSA), the largest health insurance company in Hawaii, has agreed to pay $180,000 and provide injunctive relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, HMSA violated federal law when it decided not to allow intermittent leave as a possible accommodation for employees with disabilities in its customer relations department. HMSA also failed to engage in the interactive process with its employees to determine if there were other accommodations available for them. The above-mentioned practices forced employees to either work without an accommodation or resign.   

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii (EEOC v. Hawaii Medical Service Association Case No. CV-18-00253-LEK-WRP) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to monetary relief, the three-year consent decree includes injunctive relief aimed at preventing future disability discrimination. Hawaii Medical Service Association has agreed to review and revise its policies and procedures regarding compliance with the ADA and provide training in employment discrimination law such as disability discrimination, the interactive process, and reasonable accommodation. The health insurance company has also agreed to have a centralized accommodation unit to maintain and track all disability accommodation requests and disability discrimination complaints, and ensure appropriate record keeping, reporting, and monitoring.

"We commend Hawaii Medical Service Association for their commitment to the ADA and for agreeing to comprehensive injunctive remedies that intend to prevent future disability discrimination," said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District, which includes Hawaii in its jurisdiction. "We encourage other employers to follow suit and review their disability accommodation policies and practices to ensure they are in compliance with federal law."

Glory Gervacio Saure, director of the EEOC's Honolulu Local Office, said, "The EEOC is committed to preventing and correcting disability discrimination in the workplace. Employers must provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities, barring any undue hardship."

One of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) is for the EEOC to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA.

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.