EEOC Said Employer Fired Woman Battling Breast Cancer When She Attempted to Return to Work
BALTIMORE -- A White Marsh, Md., medical practice will pay for $125,000 and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that Medical Health Group, Inc., refused to return an employee to work who had recovered from breast cancer surgery.
According to the EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No. 1:09-cv-00803-WDQ), filed in U.S District Court for the District of Maryland, Medical Health Group violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) when it discriminated against Barbara Metzger by firing her when she had attempted to return to work after recovering from serious surgical complications. Metzger had been employed as a referral clerk for the practice for nearly 25 years; the practice was acquired by Medical Health Group in 2002. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in January 2007.
About one week before her approved medical leave ended, Metzger was called into work on May 31, 2007. She told her employer the she intended to work without interruption while undergoing her remaining chemotherapy sessions and radiation therapy for her cancer. The practice administrator then cited examples of people she knew whose cancer treatments made them too sick to work. At the meeting, Metzger was presented with a termination letter that stated she was being fired because she was “currently unable to return to work on a full-time basis. Due to the seriousness of her illness, and extended nature of the treatment required . . . we must exercise our option to permanently fill your position.”
The ADA prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on assumptions and misinformation about a person’s medical condition. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
“A woman who is bravely battling breast cancer has enough of a challenge without having to lose her job because of unlawful discrimination,” said EEOC Acting Chairman Stuart J. Ishimaru. “The EEOC will stand up for the victims of this sort of bias.”
The settlement, which represents almost the complete monetary recovery allowed under the ADA, also requires Medical Health Group to provide two hours of training on employer ADA compliance to its practice administrator one hour of such training to all of its officers, supervisors and managers. The employer will modify its anti-discrimination policies, distribute the new policy to all employees and managerial staff, and post a notice confirming its commitment to comply with the ADA.Additionally, Medical Health Group resolved a Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) claim brought by attorney Kathleen Cahill on Metzger’s behalf.
EEOC Acting Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence said, “We are pleased that Medical Health Group has agreed to expeditiously resolve the case by entering into this consent decree and by providing very substantial monetary relief to Mrs. Metzger – and agreeing to other terms that will help protect employees from disability discrimination.”
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Maria Morocco added, “This case should remind employers of their legal responsibility to women working with breast cancer. Employment decisions cannot be made based on fears and stereotypes about a person’s medical condition.”
The EEOC has issued a compliance assistance document on cancer in the workplace. The publication explains how the ADA might apply to job applicants and employees who have or had cancer. The document is available on the EEOC’s web site at http://www.eeoc.gov/facts/cancer.html.
In Fiscal Year 2008, workplace discrimination charge filings with the EEOC nationwide increased 15 percent to an unprecedented level of 95,402. The EEOC received 19,453 charges of disability discrimination in that year.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.
This page was last modified on July 22, 2009.
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