Hospital Refused to Grant Therapist Reasonable Accommodation then Terminated Him, Federal Agency Said
BALTIMORE - Harbor Hospital Inc., trading as MedStar Harbor Hospital, will pay $179,576 and furnish other relief to resolve a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced yesterday.
The EEOC said that MedStar Harbor Hospital violated federal law when it refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to and instead fired Jerome Alston, a respiratory therapist, because of his disability. Alston had a kidney transplant and takes medication which compromises his immune system and increases his risk of infection. Due to his weakened immune system, Alston requested, and MedStar initially granted him, a "work-around" which excused him from working in isolation rooms with a mechanical ventilation system designed to trap infectious airborne materials. MedStar also gave some other employees similar work-arounds when requested. EEOC charged that in November 2013, when Alston again needed a work-around, MedStar refused to grant this reasonable accommodation and instead abruptly terminated him because of his disability and his accommodation request.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination. The ADA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations unless doing so would cause a significant expense or difficulty to the employer. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division (EEOC v. Harbor Hospital Inc., t/a MedStar Harbor Hospital, Civil Action No. 1:16-03138-GLR) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the monetary relief to Alston, the five-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins MedStar Harbor Hospital from violating the ADA in the future, including refusing to provide reasonable accommodations. MedStar Harbor Hospital will revise and distribute to all employees a reasonable accommodations policy. It will provide ADA training to all managers, supervisors, human resources personnel, and occupational health department employees. The hospital will provide Alston with a favorable letter of recommendation. MedStar Harbor Hospital will also report to the EEOC on how it handles any complaints of disability discrimination and post a notice regarding the settlement.
"Health care providers, like all employers, must be mindful of the obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation that allows an employee with a disability to remain employed," said EEOC Philadelphia District Office Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. "It's not only a good employment practice to retain loyal and productive workers; it's required by federal law."
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability such as renal failure, whether it is needed because of limitations caused by the disability itself or by the side effects of medication or treatment for the disability. We are pleased that MedStar Harbor Hospital took these claims seriously, cooperated in resolving this matter, and agreed to make meaningful policy changes to ensure that its employees and applicants are protected from disability discrimination and receive the accommodations to which they are entitled under the ADA."
The EEOC Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. The legal staff of the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.