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PRESS RELEASE
9-30-11

EEOC Sues Hospital Housekeeping for Disability Discrimination at Children's Hospital

Mentally Impaired Housekeeper Denied Time to Learn Safety Signs and Fired, Federal Agency Charges

FRESNO, Calif. – Hospital Housekeeping Systems of Houston, Inc. violated federal law when it denied reasonable accommodation and discharged a housekeeper due to her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today against the housekeeping and linen services company.  The alleged discrimination took place at the company’s operation at the Children’s Hospital Central California in Madera, Calif. 

The housekeeper applied for the position in 2006 with the assistance of her mother, disclosing her difficulty with reading, which was due to a mental impairment.  The department director assured them that it would not be an issue and hired her into the position, according to the EEOC.  Two weeks later, a new department director indicated that the reading issue was a problem and tested the housekeeper’s ability to read signs at the hospital.  The EEOC contends that the housekeeper requested time to learn the signs at home, since she was not able to do so quickly on the spot.  However, the new department director denied her request for a reasonable accommodation and immediately fired her, despite the retention of other housekeepers without disabilities who were also unable to read the signs, according to the EEOC.

The EEOC filed suit against Hospital Housekeeping in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California, arguing that the actions are a violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act (EEOC v. Hospital Housekeeping Systems of Houston, Inc., Case No. 1:11-cv-01658-LJO-DLB).  The EEOC’s suit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the housekeeper, along with injunctive relief to ensure that future instances of disability discrimination do not occur.  

“The EEOC is committed to ensuring equal access to work for people with disabilities,” said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, which includes Fresno in its jurisdiction.  “Employers who deny equal opportunities to qualified individuals with disabilities run afoul of the law and lose out on a productive pool of workers.” 

Melissa Barrios, director of the EEOC’s Fresno Local Office, added, “Applying higher standards to candidates and workers with disabilities is both wrong and illegal.  In fact, employers should dialogue with them to ensure that proper accommodations – which are often minor – are made so they may be fully successful on the job.”

According to its website, Texas-based Hospital Housekeeping Systems services 6,600 medical facilities across the U.S. and has been in the business of housekeeping and linen management for over 30 years. 

The EEOC is the federal agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.