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Employment Law Blog
James Tarquin, P.A
As part of our commitment to assist and educate employees in fighting back against the abusive employment practices of employers, we offer a broad range of information about employment law issues in our employment blog.

Are Employees Protected Against Wrongful Termination If They Do Not Have An Actual Disability?

Disability, Ability

Having litigated wrongful termination cases in Florida courts for more than twenty years, our Ocala, Florida employee rights attorneys know that a common employment law myth is that employees must have an actual disability to be protected against disability discrimination. Under the federal discrimination laws, however, an employee does not have to be disabled to be protected against disability discrimination. In this article, our Marion County, Florida employee rights lawyers explain how a recent disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) illustrates that the federal discrimination laws protect employees from disability discrimination even if they do not have an actual disability.

Wrongful Termination Lawsuit

On April 1, 2021, the EEOC issued a press release announcing that it has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against Charter Senior Living, LLC (Charter). On March 31, 2021, the EEOC filed the sexual harassment lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Charter Senior Living, LLC, Case No. 3:21-cv-00708, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. Before commencing the federal court lawsuit, the EEOC initially attempted to reach a settlement through its statutorily mandated conciliation process. Unable to resolve the case through conciliation efforts, the EEOC invoked its statutory right to address the alleged unlawful discriminatory employment practices through litigation.

Employee Rights Under Federal Law

The EEOC has filed the disability discrimination lawsuit pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended by the ADA Amendment Act of 2008, on behalf of a former employee of Charter, Nicole Woods (Woods). The ADA makes discrimination on the basis of disability an unlawful discriminatory employment practice. Under the ADA, employees are protected against disability discrimination when they have an actual disability, a record of having a disability, or are regarded by an employer as having an actual disability. Thus, even if an employee does not, in fact, have a disability, the employee is protected from disability discrimination by the ADA if an employer regards the employee as disabled. When an employee is fired because an employer regards the employee as having an actual disability, the employee has been wrongfully terminated in violation of the ADA. The EEOC alleges that Charter discriminated against Woods in violation of the ADA by firing her because it regarded Woods as disabled.

EEOC Claims Wrongful Termination

Charter is an assisted living facility. In July 2019, Woods was hired by Charter as a nursing assistant. As a condition of being hired by Charter, Woods was subjected to and successfully completed a physical assessment test. Woods worked without incident, according to the EEOC, until Charter’s newly-hired Director asked to shake her hand when he met her. When Woods held out her left hand, the Director informed Woods that he only shook a person’s right hand. At that point, Woods told the Director that she had nerve damage in her right hand. As a result of this incident, Charter told Woods that she could no longer work until she completed a second physical assessment.

In September 2019, Woods completed her second physical assessment. The medical examiner concluded that Woods met the standards set forth in the physical assessment form, but the examiner declined to pass Woods unconditionally. Although Woods met the standards of the physical examination and did not have any difficulty performing her job, Charter would not let Woods return to work. The EEOC claims that Charter regarded Woods as having a disability based on the nerve damage in her right hand, and then violated the ADA by terminating Woods’ employment because it regarded Woods as disabled.

Attorneys For Wrongful Termination Victims

The EEOC, which is an administrative agency of the federal government, is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the federal employment laws forbidding discrimination, harassment, and retaliation in the workplace. In seeking to fulfill its statutory mission of preventing and correcting unlawful discriminatory employment practices, the EEOC brings lawsuits in federal court on behalf of employment discrimination victims, including disability discrimination victims.

In a press release issued by the EEOC on April 1, 2021 regarding the case, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s Detroit Field Office, Nedra Campbell, explained that “firing an employee based on stereotypes regarding a physical impairment violates the ADA.” In further commenting on the case, Ms. Campbell stated that “Charter Senior Living failed to conduct an individualized inquiry into whether this employee could perform her job despite her nerve damage.”

Ocala, FL Employee Rights Attorneys

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida employee rights lawyers have fought for employees against discriminatory employment practices for more than twenty years. If you have been wrongfully terminated or have questions about your employee rights under the federal employment laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida employee rights attorneys. Our employment and labor law attorneys take employment discrimination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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