Hospital Fired Employee for Accepting its Offer of a Brief Leave of Absence After Cancer Treatment, Federal Agency Charged
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. - Midwest Regional Medical Center, an acute care hospital and for-profit Oklahoma limited liability corporation, violated federal law by firing an employee because of her cancer and cancer treatment, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Janice Withers was hired by Midwest Regional Medical Center on Oct. 3, 2011, as a nurse aide. In late December 2011, Withers advised her supervisor, Registered Nurse Susan Milan, that she had recently been diagnosed with cancer and would undergo radiation treatment during the period January through February 2012. At that time, Milan offered Withers a leave of absence, but Withers indicated she wanted to try and work during the treatment. Milan advised Withers that her cancer and treatment would not be a problem and would not affect her employment.
Withers concluded radiation treatment, but called in sick because of nausea and fatigue, the residual side effects of this treatment, on March 2 through March 4, 2012. On March 5, Milan contacted Withers by telephone and advised that she was placing her on a further leave of absence until March 12, telling her to "get rested up from the radiation." Milan sent Withers a letter, dated March 5, memorializing that she had been placed on a leave of absence until March 12. The letter provided that Withers was expected to obtain an unrestricted release to work, and return to work no later than March 12.
However, on March 12, Milan told Withers that she was discharged as of March 9 for "no call/no show." The EEOC said that Withers could have returned to work on March 12 and performed her essential job functions with or without reasonable accommodation had she been permitted to do so by her employer.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (EEOC v. Midwest Regional Medical Center, Civil Case No.: CIV-13-789-M) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC's suit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and reinstatement or front pay for Withers, as well as injunctive relief, including a court order prohibiting Midwest Regional Medical Center from any further discrimination against employees because of their disability.
"The ADA has long prohibited a private employer from discriminating against applicants or employees because of their disability," said Barbara A. Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC's St. Louis District Office. "Instead of simply solving this situation, which it easily could have done, the hospital chose to violate established civil rights of disabled employees. Through this litigation, we hope that this employer will come to better understand and assume its obligations under the law."
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.