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Press Release 11-03-2021

Willis-Knighton Medical Center to Pay $450,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Health Services Provider Capped Leave and Light Duty, Federal Agency Says

NEW ORLEANS – Shreveport, La.-based Willis-Knighton Medical Center, a health services provider, has agreed to pay $450,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Willis-Knighton Medical Center required employees who exceeded a fixed leave-and-light-duty cap to be fully fit for duty (that is, have no restrictions), regardless of whether those employees could perform the essential functions of their jobs with or without reasonable accommodations. Willis-Knighton fired employees who exceeded the cap, rather than engaging with them in a meaningful interactive process about reasonable accommodations, the lawsuit said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana (No. 2:21-cv-01774) and asked the court to approve the decree on September 27, 2021. The EEOC had previously attempted to reach a settlement through its conciliation process.

The three-year consent decree, which the court approved on October 19, 2021, resolves the EEOC’s lawsuit. In addition to paying $450,000 in monetary relief, Willis-Knighton Medical Center has rescinded its leave-and-light-duty cap and changed its policies on reasonable accommodations. It will also ensure that its policies provide a process for an employee to report discrimination, a process for investigating and resolving that report (overseen by a human resources manager), and a process for periodically updating the employee on the status of the investigation and resolution. Willis-Knighton Medical Center will also train employees on the purpose of the ADA, examples of discrimination and retaliation, its responsibilities and employees’ rights under the ADA, and the internal and external process for reporting discrimination and retaliation. Willis-Knighton Medical Center will submit regular reports to the EEOC, post notices, provide references, and retain records.

“The EEOC is pleased that Willis-Knighton Medical Center has made efforts, proactively and through this decree, to protect the rights of its employees under the ADA,” said Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office.

Andrew Kingsley, senior trial attorney in the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office, noted, “Employers cannot require an employee with a disability to be fully fit to work if the employee can perform the job with or without reasonable accommodation.”

The lawsuit was commenced and resolved by the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office, which is part of the Houston District Office, which has jurisdiction over Louisiana and parts of Texas.

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