In December, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that Family HealthCare Network — a Visalia, California-based health services company — agreed to pay $1.75 million to settle a pregnancy discrimination claim and a disability discrimination claim. According to the agency, Family HealthCare Network used an overly rigid system of policies and practices in granting employees leave. As a result, several pregnant and/or disabled workers were denied access to the reasonable accommodations that they were owed under federal law.
EEOC: “Inflexible” Leave Policy Failed to Accommodate Workers
In its original complaint against the Family HealthCare Network, the EEOC alleged that the company failed to behave in a good faith manner in regards to offering accommodations to disabled and pregnant employees. The EEOC alleged that the company created a highly rigid system that made it difficult for pregnant and disabled workers to take leave. In addition, the agency noted that pregnant and disabled workers were uniformly denied any extension in their initial leave and they were terminated if they were not able to return to work at the time demanded by the company. The EEOC cited some cases in which the California-based health services company terminated workers before their originally approved leave even expired and refused to re-hire them.
Beyond paying $1.75 in monetary damages, Family HealthCare Network also agreed to take additional action to bring its corporate policies into compliance with state and federal regulations.
More specifically, the company agreed to “review and revise” its internal leave policies, and it agreed to implement a new program of harassment and discrimination awareness training. As part of the settlement, this employer will file reports with the Fresno, CA EEOC office for the next three years.
In commenting on the settlement agreement, Melissa Barrios, the Director of the EEOC’s Fresno office, noted that this case is far from unique. She highlighted the fact that the federal regulators have seen a number of examples of employers using unreasonable and overly harsh leave policies that are inherently discriminatory toward disabled and pregnant workers.
The ADA Requires Employers to Engage in a Good Faith, Interactive Process
Among other things, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires companies that are covered by the law to make reasonable accommodations for disabled workers. In determining what type of reasonable accommodation is appropriate, California employers are expected to engage in a “good-faith interactive process” with the employee. Rigid policies rarely work. The interactive process should be designed in a manner to find a solution that actually suffices to accommodate a disabled worker.
Contact Our San Francisco Disability Discrimination Lawyers Today
At Minnis & Smallets, LLP, our California employment attorneys have extensive experience handling the full range of pregnancy discrimination claims and disability discrimination claims. If you believe that your employer failed to make good faith efforts to provide you with a reasonable accommodation, we are here to help. To schedule a fully private initial consultation, please do not hesitate to contact our legal team at 1-415-551-0885.