Kaiser Permanente Sued by EEOC For Disability Discrimination

Worker With Hydrocephalus Fired After Being Denied a Free Job Coach to Assist With Training, Federal Agency Charges

SAN DIEGO - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced it has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed care organization in the United States, on behalf of a former food service worker with a disability.

Kaiser Permanente initially hired the individual in June 2008 as a food service worker at its San Diego Medical Center facility. The former worker has a medical condition, hydrocephalus, which causes difficulties with memory, dizziness and concentration. According to the EEOC, the worker requested additional training time and the assistance of a temporary job coach so that he might effectively learn his job and perform his job duties. Toward Maximum Independence (TMI), a non-profit organization in San Diego specializing in assisting people with disabilities, was available to provide the temporary job coaching services for the worker free of charge to the employer. However, Kaiser refused to grant the reasonable accommodation request, and instead chose to fire the worker in August 2008, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed its suit against Kaiser in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (EEOC v. Kaiser Foundation Hospitals dba Kaiser Permanente, Case No. 3:13-cv-02062-MMA-WVG), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC's suit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages for the former food service worker as well as injunctive relief intended to prevent further discrimination at the hospital.

"Federal law dictates that employees with disabilities are entitled to reasonable accommodations which pose no undue hardship on the employer," said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District, which includes San Diego in its jurisdiction. "The EEOC will be ever vigilant to ensure that employers abide by the law."

Marla Stern-Knowlton, local director of the EEOC's San Diego Local Office, said, "Workers with disabilities may need reasonable accommodations to be fully successful on the job. It is an employer's best interest to explore the most effective accommodation options, particularly when there is little or no cost or disruption to business operations. More often than not, the cost of accommodations is minimal, as in this case."

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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