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Worker Unlawfully Denied Accommodation For Her Disability EEOC Discrimination Lawsuit Alleges

Social Rejection

On January 26, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a press release announcing that it has entered into a Consent Decree to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit against Gentiva Health Services, Inc. and Gentiva Health Services (USA), LLC (Gentiva). On September 22, 2020, the EEOC filed the disability discrimination lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Gentiva Health Services, Inc. & Gentiva Health Services (USA), LLC, Case No. 1:20-cv-3936, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Before pursuing litigation in federal court, the EEOC initially attempted to correct the alleged discriminatory employment practices through conciliation. Conciliation efforts having failed, the EEOC exercised its right under federal law to address the alleged discriminatory employment practices through federal court litigation.

In the Consent Decree, which was endorsed by U.S. District Court Judge Mark H. Cohen on January 26, 2021, Gentiva agreed to pay $160,000 to resolve the disability discrimination case. In this article, our Citrus County, Florida lawyers for employee rights explain the EEOC’s allegations of unlawful disability discrimination against Gentiva.

Disabled Employees’ Rights

The EEOC brought the disability discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended by the ADA Amendment Act of 2008, on behalf of an employee of Gentiva, Monique Bell (Bell). The ADA makes discrimination against disabled employees an unlawful discriminatory employment practice. The ADA also requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees with a disability. The purpose of the ADA’s reasonable accommodation requirement is to enable a disabled employee to perform the essential functions of his or her job. Reasonable accommodations under the ADA include job restructuring, part-time work, and reassignment to a vacant position. Under the ADA, it is an unlawful discriminatory employment practice for an employer to fail or refuse to reasonably accommodate disabled employees, unless the employer can demonstrate that the accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the operation of its business. Thus, as the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals observed in Selenke v. Med. Imaging of Colo., 248 F.3d 1249 (10th Cir. 2001), the ADA “establishes a cause of action for disabled employees whose employers fails to reasonably accommodate them.”

The EEOC contends that Gentiva discriminated against Bell by denying her a reasonable accommodation for her disability and placing her on unpaid leave because of her disability.

Worker Claims Unlawful Discrimination

Bell works as a procurement systems specialist at Gentiva’s office in Atlanta, Georgia. The EEOC maintains that Bell is disabled within the meaning of the ADA based on her health condition of Morton’s Neuroma and capsulitis of the meatarsophalangeal joint of both feet. On September 19, 2019, Bell presented a doctor’s note to Gentiva’s assistant vice president and, at the same time, requested to telework for three weeks as an accommodation for her health condition, as working from home would allow her to stay off her feet throughout the day in accordance with her doctor’s recommendation.

A human resources representative initially told Bell that she would be allowed to telework, as Bell had previously teleworked without issue during the course of her employment. From September 19, 2019 until October 1, 2019, Bell completed the essential functions of her position while teleworking. On October 1, 2019, Bell was instructed to cease working from home and was denied access to Gentiva’s email and computer systems. On October 14, 2019, Bell provided a second doctor’s note prescribing a work from restriction to allow healing, and she again requested to telework as an accommodation for her disability. Gentiva denied Bell’s request and kept Bell on unpaid leave without benefits. Bell’s involuntary leave lasted until she returned to work on February 12, 2020. Since March 26, 2020, Bell has been teleworking full-time as a result of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

Attorneys Fighting For Employees

The EEOC, which is an administrative agency of the federal government, is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the federal anti-discrimination laws, including the ADA. As part of its statutory mission to enforce employee rights under the federal anti-discrimination laws, the EEOC files lawsuits in federal court on behalf of employment discrimination victims, including employees discriminated against on the basis of disability. In a press release issued by the EEOC on January 26, 2021 regarding the case, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, Marcus Keegan, explained that “an employer should accommodate an employee who can perform the essential functions of the position with a limited period of telework, if it does not impose an undue hardship.” In commenting on the case, the Director of the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, Darrell Graham, stated that the “EEOC is committed to seeking relief for workers who are harmed by employers who fail to engage in the interactive process and who discriminate against employees who have the ability to perform the essential functions of the job, with or without a reasonable accommodation.”

Inverness, FL Employee Rights Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Citrus County, Florida attorneys for employee rights have represented workers victimized by discriminatory employment practices for more than two decades. If you have experienced discrimination at work or have questions about your rights as an employee under the federal employment and labor laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Inverness, Florida lawyers for employee rights. 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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