EEOC Sues Methodist Health System for Disability Discrimination

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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Patient Care Technician With Back Injury Denied Transfer to a Job She Could Perform, Federal Agency Charges

DALLAS - Methodist Health System and Methodist Charlton Medical Center, also known as Charlton Methodist Hospital, violated federal law by firing an employee because of her back injury, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. 

According to EEOC's lawsuit, Adrianna Cook was hired by Methodist to assume the job of patient care technician, which involved lifting and transporting patients.  While performing this duty, Cook severely injured her back and requested a reasonable accommodation in the form of a transfer to a job that did not require heavy lifting. EEOC alleges that when a patient sitter position caring for newborns and scheduling coordinator job became available, Cook applied for these positions, which did not involve any heavy lifting.  Despite Methodist's acknowledge­ment that she was qualified for these jobs, Cook was not given either job as a reasonable accom­mo­dation, and, as a result, the hospital terminated her.  EEOC asserts that employees who are no longer able to perform their jobs due to a disability should not have to compete with non-disabled employees when seeking the accommodation of job reassignment.

Methodist's alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disa­bil­ities Act (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination, including failing to reasonably accommodate employees, in the workplace.  EEOC filed its lawsuit, Civil Action No. 3:15-cv-3104-G, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its concili­ation process.  In this case, EEOC seeks back pay plus compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief, including an order barring similar violations of the ADA in the future.

"Sometimes an employee can no longer perform a particular job due to a disability," said Toby Wosk Costas, Supervisory Trial Attorney at the Dallas District Office.  "Requiring a disabled emp­loyee to search for a vacant position for which she is qualified, then simply abandoning her in that process, is not fair or reasonable treatment.  One would hope that a healing institution such as a hospital would understand that."

Devika Seth, a senior trial attorney in EEOC's Dallas District Office, said, "Here is a case in which a hospital, which is in the business of caring for patients, has denied one of its own employees an equally attentive level of care.  The request by Ms. Cook to continue as a productive employee was an excellent opportunity for the hospital to demonstrate its commitment to staff whose disabilities do not prevent them from performing valuable functions." 

Methodist is a health care system comprised of a network of 12 medical facilities that include primary care physician centers and practices, rehabilitation clinics, senior health centers and affiliated ambulatory surgery centers located in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

EEOC's Dallas District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Texas and parts of New Mexico.

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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