The EEOC recently filed a disability discrimination suit in a South Carolina federal court (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Correct Care Solutions, LLC). The complaint alleges that Correct Care Solutions, LLC, (“Correct Care”) fired an employee because of her disability in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Correct Care offers medical services to prisoners in correctional institutions and hired the employee (who was taking medication for a seizure disorder) in April 2012 as a licensed practical nurse at a detention center in Columbia, South Carolina. During a hospitalization, the employee was taken off her seizure medication and, as a result, had a grand mal seizure. When she returned to work, she provided a doctor’s release stating that she could return to work immediately with no restrictions. The EEOC alleged that Correct Care refused the note purportedly because a physician had not signed it. According to the complaint, the employee then provided additional information, including her hospital discharge instructions and a signed note from a neurologist who treated her seizures. Correct Care then had her fill out a Job Analysis form, and placed her on unpaid leave pending review of the form. The complaint alleges that the employee returned the completed form, which stated that she could work with certain restrictions (including not working at heights) and Correct Care terminated her because she needed to be able to climb stairs and work on the second floor to perform the essential functions of her job. According to the EEOC, the employee was fully capable of climbing stairs and working on the second floor.
Disability discrimination cases have long been on the EEOC’s radar. As noted by EEOC counsel:
Although EEOC has made great strides in educating employers and the public about disability discrimination, some employers still judge employees based on a disability rather than on their proven ability to do a job . . . EEOC will continue to fight for the rights of people victimized by such prejudices.
The complaint serves as a reminder to employers of the importance of engaging in the interactive process to determine if there are any reasonable accommodations available and to be sure the process looks both interactive and reasonable. Here, we don’t yet know the company’s version of events, which may be very different than those recited in the complaint. However, based on the complaint’s allegations, Correct Care asked the employee to provide relevant information prior to returning to work, which looks interactive, but at the end of it may not have sufficiently documented the results that led to her termination.