Home Health Care Provider Fired Employee With Fibromyalgia and Osteoarthritis Because of Walking Restrictions, Federal Agency Charged
MINNEAPOLIS – A Minneapolis-area home health care provider will pay $30,000 under a consent decree entered here which resolves a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that Baywood Home Care violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide Laurie Goodnough with a reasonable accommodation, and instead firing her as a home health aide. Goodnough has fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis that substantially limits her walking and bending.
John Rowe, director of the EEOC’s Chicago District, of which Minnesota is a part, managed the agency’s administrative investigation which preceded the lawsuit. Rowe said that the EEOC’s suit had alleged that two supervisors observed Goodnough walking with a cane, contacted Baywood Home Care’s owner and complained about it. The EEOC alleged that Baywood Home Care then fired Goodnough because of her disability, and failed to engage in the interactive process to determine and provide her with a reasonable accommodation.
Such alleged conduct violates the ADA. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Minnesota Living Assistance, Inc. d/b/a Baywood Home Care, Civil Action No. 0:14-cv-00809 [ADM-SER]) in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The consent decree settling the suit, signed by U.S. District Judge Ann D. Montgomery on October 28, 2014, provides $30,000 in monetary relief to Goodnough. It also requires Baywood Home Care to train its management personnel and employees involved in hiring on the ADA, including reasonable accommodation, and the interactive process. The decree also requires Baywood Home Care to revise its performance evaluation criteria to hold managers and supervisors accountable for failing to report, take appropriate action, or engage in the interactive process with respect to disability discrimination complaints or requests for accommodation. Finally, Baywood Home Care must report complaints of disability discrimination to the EEOC during the decree’s three-year term.
“The consent decree is going to require meaningful change at Baywood Home Care,” according to John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District. “They are going to be educating managers, supervisors and employees about disability discrimination. They are going to be training their people on the company’s obligation to engage in the interactive process to obtain information about an employee’s disability and need for accommodations. They are going to avoid stereotypes which often lead to trouble for the employer.”
Tina Burnside, the trial attorney in EEOC’s Minneapolis Area Office who litigated the case, added, “The consent decree is about a good deal more than the $30,000 in compensation. It’s also about specifically targeted non-monetary relief to eradicate disability based discrimination at Baywood Home Care. Eliminating barriers to hiring for people with disabilities – working on the application process, for example – is a priority under the EEOC’s Strategic Enforcement Plan. That has driven our pursuit of this case and undergirds our support for this decree.”
The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and litigation in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.