Providence Hospital Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination

Hospital Fired Employee Who Relied on Cane, Federal Agency Charged

WASHINGTON - Providence Hospital, a full-service hospital in Washington, D.C., unlawfully refused to accommodate a disabled employee and subsequently discharged her because of her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Louise McFadden worked for Providence Hospital starting in 2005.  McFadden worked as a medical assistant in the hospital's Center for Life, a unit that provides obstetrical and gynecological care for women and expectant mothers.  In March 2011, McFadden returned to work following a disability-related injury.  According to the EEOC, McFadden was cleared to work full-time but was told that she had to use a cane to ambulate.  There were vacant positions at the hospital that McFadden could have been placed into as an accommodation for her disability.  Providence Hospital, however, would not allow McFadden to return to work in any capacity until she received medical clearance to return to work without the use of a cane.  McFadden was placed on medical leave and discharged on August 24, 2011 after her leave was exhausted.  

The EEOC said that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), Providence Hospital had an obligation to reassign McFadden to a vacant position that she could perform.  The ADA protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations.  The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Providence Hospital; Civil Action No. 1:13-CV-01958) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  The EEOC seeks back pay, reinstatement, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.

"The need for an assistive device should not be an automatic bar to employment," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District.  "Where an employee is qualified, ready and willing to work, the employer has a legal duty provide a reasonable accommodation to make that employment possible.  This case reconfirms the EEOC's commitment to enforcing the federally protected rights of qualified employees who happen to have disabilities."

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.