Benedictine Health Center Settles EEOC ‘No Restrictions’ Disability Bias Suit
By the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission,
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced Friday that a federal judge has approved a consent decree settling its disability discrimination lawsuit against New Brighton, Minn.-based Benedictine Health Center at Innsbruck. (EEOC v. Benedictine Health Center at Innsbruck, Case No. 12-cv-01204 (D. Minn.) (MJD/JJK).)
Benedictine Health Center at Innsbruck formerly maintained a policy requiring employees who took medical leaves of absence to return to work with no restrictions unless the injury or condition were related to an on-the-job injury.
According to John Hendrickson, regional attorney for EEOC’s Chicago District, such “no restrictions” policies violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because employers must explore whether a disabled employee with restrictions could return to work with or without a reasonable accommodation.
Therefore, the EEOC contended in its complaint that Benedictine’s “no restrictions” policy was unlawful discrimination on the basis of disability. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The EEOC settlement was reached after Benedictine confirmed that its “no restrictions” policy was dropped in 2010, and agreed to fully compensate two former employees who were terminated because they could not return to work with without restrictions.
“Benedictine should be commended for stepping up to the plate in this case, dropping its unlawful policy and compensating former employees who lost their jobs,” said Jean Kamp, associate regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District.
Hendrickson added, “Employers would be wise to follow Benedictine’s lead, since one of the hottest areas of EEOC litigation right now involves the agency’s efforts to root out inflexible leave policies – particularly those that supposedly eliminate an employer’s legal obligation to explore and make reasonable accommodations for employees returning from medical leaves of absence.”
Under the terms of the four-year consent decree entered by the court, Benedictine must pay $30,912 to two former employees who were not allowed to return to work because they had physical impairments that were not work-related. Additionally, Benedictine will revise its workplace policies to comply with the ADA from now on and provide regular training to personnel who are responsible for carrying out their medical leave and return-to-work policies.
The EEOC’s litigation effort was lead by Associate Regional Attorney Jean Kamp and Senior Trial Attorney Nicholas Pladson of the agency’s Minneapolis Area Office.
The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, and operates Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.