It is ironic how the organizations that you think would know the most about disability discrimination sometimes find themselves facing discrimination charges. Kaiser Permanente, the country’s largest managed care organization was recently sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) for allegedly discriminating against a food stocking employee with Hydrocephalus.
The lawsuit states that the employee was hired in June 2008 at one of Kaiser’s San Diego Medical facilities. The worker had a condition known as hydrocephalus. Symptoms of hydrocephalus include memory difficulties, dizziness, and problems concentrating. The EEOC says that the during the employee’s first few weeks on the job he requested additional training time and the help of a temporary job coach so that he could more effectively learn the job duties. A non-profit organization, Toward Maximum Independence, that provides job coaching services would have been able to provide the help to the employee for free. However, Kaiser decided not to grant the request and terminated the employee in August 2008.
The EEOC filed a lawsuit after trying to settle the dispute informally. The EEOC has requested significant damages including backpay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages as well as a court order to prevent future discrimination.
It is unclear what legal defenses Kaiser will assert in this lawsuit. An employer’s defenses to disability discrimination lawsuits in failing to provide reasonable accommodations are generally limited to the following:
- the employee was terminated for reasons other than disability,
- the accommodation requested was unreasonable,
- the employee could not have performed the essential functions of the job even with reasonable accommodation,
- the employee posed a direct threat to themselves or others in performing the job
It is hard to see how providing a free temporary job coach would have been unfeasible for an organization as big as Kaiser. It is possible that Kaiser did not know that the services existed, but even then an employer is required to engage in the interactive process with employees to determine what reasonable accommodations exist.
If you have been discriminated against by an employer, former employer, or potential employer due to your disability or perceived disability contact a California employment law attorney right away. To learn more contact the employment lawyers of the Law Offices of Michael S. Cunningham, LLP. To schedule a free consultation call (951) 213-4786 today.