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October 2017

EEOC Files ADA Suit Against Health Care Staffing Agency

The EEOC sued a Baltimore, Maryland health care staffing agency for disability discrimination under Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) because the agency fired an employee with sickle-cell anemia. In that case, the employee, a phlebotomist, was pregnant and experiencing complications relating to her sickle-cell anemia that restricted her ability to lift and bend. The employee requested an accommodation of no longer working mobile blood drives, which according to the EEOC, the agency initially refused to provide until the employee had premature contractions while working on a mobile blood drive and was hospitalized. After that, the agency placed the employee in an out-patient phlebotomy department where she continued to work until she gave birth and went on maternity leave. While on maternity leave, the EEOC contends that the employee kept the agency apprised of her status and hospital stays. However, when the employee informed the agency that she would be able to return to work, the agency terminated her employment claiming that it had decided to backfill her position effective immediately. An EEOC official commenting on the case stated “[e]veryone loses when an employer rushes to terminate an employee instead of exploring potential reasonable accommodations, including transfer to a vacant position, that would enable a good worker to remain employed.”

This suit serves as an important reminder that employers must engage in the interactive process with employees who are seeking a reasonable accommodation, which may include reassignment to a vacant position (absent undue hardship), and to consult with legal counsel before taking adverse action.