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Press Release 03-05-2019

Rivers Casino to Pay $60,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

Casino Fired Employee for Asking for Medical Leave for  Cancer Treatment, Federal Agency Charged

CHICAGO - Midwest  Gaming, LLC (operating as Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Ill.) will pay $60,000  and furnish other 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, Rivers Casino wrongfully  denied Donnan Lake's request for a reasonable accommodation of a few additional  weeks of leave to have surgery for treatment of sarcoma, a type of cancer he  had fought since childhood. Instead of providing the additional time, Rivers fired  Lake as a slot technician.

Rivers Casino sought to dismiss this case under Severson v.  Heartland Woodcraft, Inc., 872 F.3d 476 (7th Cir. 2017), arguing  that the company had no obligation to accommodate Lake's leave request under  the ADA. The district court disagreed, ruling on May 25, 2018 that the EEOC  "may be able to establish that granting Lake a short period of additional leave  was a reasonable accommodation in this particular case."

Chief Judge Ruben Castillo entered the consent decree  resolving this case on Feb. 25. The two-year decree enjoins Rivers Casino from discriminating  against employees on the basis of disability in the future. The prohibited  practices include failing to provide reasonable accommodations for  disability-related absences and terminating employees on the basis of  disability. Under the decree, Rivers Casino will provide training on the ADA's requirements  to provide reasonable accommodations for employees, post a notice to employees  about the terms of the consent decree, and report semi-annually to the EEOC on how  the company has addressed requests for accommodation. The decree also provides  for payment of $60,000 to the estate of Lake, who passed away during the  pendency of the litigation. This case was litigated by Richard Mrizek  and Ann Henry of the Chicago District Office.

"This case is an important  reminder that the ADA's obligation to provide reasonable accommodations applies  to employees seeking additional leave -- even after the Seventh Circuit's  decision in Severson," said EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour. "Further,  employers cannot assume that denials of requests for additional leave are safe  from scrutiny under the ADA."

EEOC District Director Julianne  Bowman added, "This consent decree reaffirms the EEOC's position that granting  additional leave can be a reasonable accommodation - and employers need to  carefully evaluate each accommodation request in that light."

The EEOC's Chicago District Office  is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative  enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin,  Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and  Minneapolis.

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