Within the last two weeks, the EEOC filed four lawsuits and announced one settlement all related to the same issue --- reasonable accommodations under the ADA.
On 8/29/13, the EEOC announced a lawsuit against House of Raeford Farms, a poultry processor, for discriminating against an employee (Sutton), who informed her supervisor she is anemic (see http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/8-29-13.cfm). She was a box line employee, and the box line operation was moved into a cold environment. She requested transfer to a vacant position, but Raeford Farms wanted medical documentation of her anemia. The charge is that the company knew she could not get a medical appointment before June 21, 2001 and she was discharged on June 1. The EEOC also claims that Raeford Farms disclosed Sutton’s confidential medication information to her co-workers.
On 8/30/13, the EEOC announced a lawsuit against a Randall Ford car dealership in Fort Smith, Arkansas (see http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/8-30-13.cfm). The case involves a manager who underwent spinal surgery and requested use of a golf cart, which the company had, and for help in test-driving vehicles to determine trade in value. The allegation is that the dealership failed to engage in an interactive process (an ADA requirement) and, instead, fired him under the guise that he engaged in misconduct three months earlier.
On 9/4/13, the EEOC announced a lawsuit against Kaiser Permanente on behalf of a food service worker with hydrocephalus (causing difficulties with memory, dizziness and concentration). The employee requested additional training time and a temporary job coach to better perform his duties. Interestingly, there was a non-profit in San Diego willing to provide the temporary job coaching services free of charge. Nevertheless, Kaiser Permanente chose to fire the employee rather than consider the reasonable accommodation request.
On 9/5/13, the EEOC announced a lawsuit against Kmart on behalf of Lorenzo Cook, who applied for a store associate position at a Hyattsville, Md. Kmart store (see http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/9-5-13.cfm). Kmart requires drug testing via urine analysis, and the problem was that Cook has kidney disease requiring dialysis and he could not submit urine. He offered alternatives, including blood testing and hair sampling, but Kmart denied the request and failed to hire him.
Most recently (9/10/13), the EEOC announced a settlement with Ranir LLC, a Detroit dental products manufacturer (see http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/9-10-13a.cfm). The settlement was on behalf of Judith Fuller, an employee who suffered from arthritis and requested a four-pronged cane to perform her job as a dental floss assembler. Citing safety concerns, Ranir fired Fuller after her company-provided leave time was exhausted. Ranir agreed to institute a new reasonable accommodation policy and train employees regarding ADA reasonable accommodation requirements. For her part, Fuller retained a private attorney and reached a separate settlement.
There you have it --- five EEOC actions in the space of 14 days all on the same issue --- failure to reasonably accommodate. Sounds to me like a trend.
by Art Gutman, Ph.D., Professor, Florida Institute of Technology