Former Owner of Oak Park Hospital Fired Woman With a Disability Instead of Accommodating Her, Federal Agency Charged
CHICAGO – The former owner of West Suburban Medical Center, an Oak Park, Illinois hospital will pay $150,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, West Suburban Medical Center violated federal civil rights laws by failing to provide a radiology technician the reasonable accommodation of a temporary, part-time schedule in January 2016, keeping her on unpaid leave instead. The suit also alleged that even after she no longer required a reasonable accommodation, the hospital refused to allow her to return to work, and instead terminated her in July 2016.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits discrimination based on disability, including the failure to provide a reasonable accommodation. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (EEOC v. VHS West Suburban Medical Center LLC; Pipeline West Suburban Medical Center, 20 cv 03579), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC had named Tenet Healthcare, an affiliate of VHS West Suburban Medical Center, as a defendant, with VHS West Suburban Medical Center later substituted as a defendant in place of Tenet Healthcare. The EEOC also alleged that Pipeline West Suburban Medical Center, the current owner of West Suburban Medical Center, is liable, as a successor, for the former owner’s discrimination.
Under the four-year consent decree settling the suit, VHS West Suburban Medical Center will pay $150,000 to the former employee. The decree provides that Tenet Healthcare and Pipeline West Suburban Medical Center are also jointly and severally liable for the monetary relief. VHS West Suburban Medical Center will also be required, should it resume operation of any facility in Illinois, to provide updated policies regarding disability discrimination and reasonable accommodations, will be required to provide annual trainings at any Illinois facilities about the ADA, and will be required to maintain records of requests for reasonable accommodations and report such requests to the EEOC.
“The employee in this case was told that she could only return to work once she had no restrictions,” said Julianne Bowman, the district director of the EEOC’s Chicago office. “Under the law, however, if an employee is able to do the essential functions of her job and accommodating the restrictions would not be an undue hardship, an employer simply cannot insist on ‘no restrictions’ or ‘fully healed’ as conditions for allowing someone to earn a living.”
Gregory Gochanour, the regional attorney of the EEOC’s Chicago office, added, “The decree provides significant relief to the employee who suffered discrimination. Further, though, the decree requires VHS to make changes to any policies in place at its Illinois facilities to prevent discrimination like this from happening again.”
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of employment discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.