Healthcare Facility Denied Applicant in Renal Failure Reasonable Accommodation for Her Disability, Federal Agency Charged
DALLAS - A Fort Worth-based health care facility will pay $50,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged The Fort Worth Center of Rehabilitation with unlawfully failing to accommodate a disabled applicant with a kidney disorder.
According to the EEOC's suit, the company denied Patsy Roberson, an applicant for a certified nursing assistant position, the reasonable accommodation of a blood- or hair-based pre-employment drug test. Roberson's kidneys were removed several years ago after a failed transplant, rendering her unable to produce concentrated urine for purposes of a drug screen. The EEOC alleged that Roberson was told by her interviewer that the job offer was contingent on passing a drug test, at which point Roberson indicated that she could not do a urine-based screen because of her disability and requested a reasonable accommodation in the form of a different method of drug testing. The EEOC said Roberson's request for accommodation was denied despite the existence of alternate forms of drug screening, and her conditional offer of employment was revoked as a direct result of the failure to accommodate.
Refusing to grant a reasonable accommodation to an individual with a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), unless granting that accommodation would create an undue hardship for the employer. An employer's duty to provide such reasonable accommodations extends to both applicants and employees. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 3:13-cv-01736-B in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
"One of EEOC's national priorities is to make sure that the door of opportunity is open at the point of hire," said Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC's Dallas District Office. "It is ultimately better for employers and applicants if the selection process does not rule out qualified people with physical impairments simply because of testing techniques that create artificial barriers to an otherwise positive pairing of a worker and a workplace."
EEOC Trial Attorney Meaghan Shepard said, "We are happy with this settlement not only for the relief that it provides to Ms. Roberson, but also because it includes an express requirement that the Fort Worth Center of Rehabilitation train its employees on the ADA, and that alternate forms of drug testing must be made available to applicants and employees who are unable to provide urine samples because of a disability. Oftentimes, situations such as this arise due to an ignorance of the law, and a simple change in policy and/or an extra training session can prevent future harm to other people."
In fiscal year 2013, 25,957 ADA charges were filed with the EEOC, representing an increase of 21% from FY 2009, when the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA) went into effect, broadening ADA coverage.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.