Employee Denied Accommodation and Fired Because of Breast Cancer, Federal Agency Charged
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Britthaven, Inc. and its successor, Principle Long Term Care, Inc., operators of a nursing and rehabilitation center, will pay $50,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that the companies violated federal law by discriminating against an employee who was diagnosed with breast cancer.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, after being diagnosed with breast cancer, Nicky Thomas, a cook at Britthaven of Henderson in Henderson, N.C., informed her supervisor of her diagnosis and treatment plan. The suit further alleged that around Oct. 28, 2010, Thomas needed to take medical leave so that she could undergo surgery to treat her breast cancer. The EEOC said that Thomas submitted a doctor's note to her supervisor, stating that Thomas was required to take leave until Dec. 10 of that year due to her medical condition. However, the EEOC said, on Nov. 29 Thomas was informed that her request for medical leave had been denied and that she was being terminated for failing to report to work.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations for their disabilities, including medical leave necessary for treatment. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division (EEOC v. Britthaven, Inc. d/b/a Britthaven of Henderson and Principle Long Term Care, Inc. d/b/a Kerr Lake Nursing & Rehabilitation Center; Civil Action No. 5:12-CV-00818), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The facility was owned by Britthaven, Inc., and operated under the name "Britthaven of Henderson" until it was taken over by Principle Long Term Care, Inc., and the name was changed to "Kerr Lake Nursing & Rehabilitation Center."
In addition to the $50,000 in damages, the two-year consent decree settling the suit requires that both Britthaven, Inc. and Principle Long Term Care, Inc. revise their ADA policies. In addition, Principle Long Term Care, Inc., the entity that currently operates the nursing and rehabilitation facility, must also provide annual training to its managers and supervisors at the facility on the ADA and post an employee notice concerning the lawsuit and employee rights under federal anti-discrimination laws.
"We hope that this case reminds employers that they must accommodate disabled employees' requests for leave unless granting leave would pose an undue hardship," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District. "We are happy to have resolved this matter for Ms. Thomas and hope that we have prevented similar situations for many other people with disabilities."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.