Rehab Center Fired Nurse Assistant With Back Injury Rather Than Allow Leave, Federal Agency Charged
NEW YORK - The Silvercrest Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation will pay $25,000 as part of the settlement of a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC charged that the nursing home and rehabilitation center, located in Queens, N.Y., terminated a nurse assistant with a back injury because she failed to submit her request for medical leave on a particular Silvercrest form, though the nurse assistant submitted a letter from her doctor in support of her request, but Silvercrest refused to accept it.
The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. The Silvercrest Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation, aka, Silvercrest Extended Care Facility, Civil Action No. 12-CV-4808) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), when a disabled employee requests an accommodation, the employer must work with the employee in finding reasonable accommodations that would allow the employee to continue working, including temporary leave. An employer violates the ADA when they refuse to provide reasonable accommodation, unless the accommodation would cause the employer an undue hardship.
In addition to the $25,000 in damages to be paid to the former employee, the two-year consent decree resolving the case includes injunctive relief requiring Silvercrest to consider all written requests for medical leave regardless of the format; implement policy revisions that allow for such requests; distribute the policy to all employees; and post a notice of this lawsuit in the employee break room. The decree also requires discrimination training for all employees, including managers and human resources staff.
"When a disabled employee requests a reasonable accommodation, employers must listen," said EEOC New York District Director Kevin Berry. "The substance of the request is what matters, not whether the employee submits the request on any particular form."
Thomas Lepak, the EEOC trial attorney assigned to the case said, "Through this consent decree, Silvercrest has agreed to a policy that will help guarantee all requests for accommodation are taken seriously."
One of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) is for the agency to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving the ADA and pregnancy-related limitations, among other possible issues.
The New York District Office of the EEOC oversees New York, Northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
The EEOC is the federal government agency responsible for enforcing federal anti-discrimination laws in the workplace. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's website at www.eeoc.gov.