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Press Release 02-17-2017

Muskegon Family Care to Pay $21,500 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Company Fired Employee Because of Medical Hold Due to Medication, Federal Agency Charged

DETROIT - A medical services provider serving the Muskegon region will pay $21,500 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that Muskegon Family Care violated federal law by firing an employee on the basis of her medical condition.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Avis Lane worked for Muskegon Family Care as an outreach-enrollment coordinator. Before she began work, the company required that she submit to a post-offer, pre-employment physical. The medical specialist who conducted that physical recommended that Lane be put on a medical hold due to medications she was taking. Notwithstanding the recommended medical hold, the company allowed Lane to work for over a month. Eventually, Muskegon Family Care fired her based on the recom­mended medical hold, the EEOC said.

Firing an employee on the basis of disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). And an employer is liable for the actions of its agent, such as a medical specialist who conducts pre-employment physicals. EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan (EEOC v. M.G.H. Family Health Center d/b/a Muskegon Family Care, Civil Case No.: 15-952) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In granting the EEOC's motion for partial summary judgment, the court found that "this case presents a peculiar fact pattern that represents a textbook case for unlawful discrimination under the regarded-as-disabled prong of the ADA."

In addition to providing monetary relief to Lane, the company entered into a three-year consent decree requiring it to develop and implement policies that comply with the ADA. The decree further requires the company to conduct annual training for employees and managers, to post an employee notice regarding federal anti-discrimination laws, and to provide periodic reports to the EEOC.

"The court's decision highlights an employer's responsibilities to comply with federal anti-discrimin­ation laws," said Miles Shultz, trial attorney for the EEOC. "The ruling makes clear that an employer cannot hide behind a third party's recommendation without determining for itself whether the employee can actually do the job."

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.