In a somewhat ironic case, a medical services company which provides emergency
and non-emergency medical transportation serving medical facilities and
communities located in northeast, central, and southwest Ohio, recently
settled a case brought by the EEOC for disability discrimination. One
would assume that such a company would be especially sensitive to the
needs of the disabled, but apparently one would be wrong.
In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged that Lifecare Medical Services, Inc.,
located in Akron, violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when
it refused to provide reasonable accommodation to John Adair, an EMT-paramedic,
who has multiple sclerosis. Adair had requested additional leave as a
reasonable accommodation but instead was issued disciplinary actions and
subsequently fired for absences related to his disability, the EEOC said.
A disability for purposes of the ADA is a physical or mental impairment
that substantially limits a major life activity. What constitutes a major
life activity is broadly defined to include basic tasks (like walking,
reading, bending, and communicating), as well as major bodily functions
(such as functions of the immune system, normal cell growth, digestive,
bowel, bladder, neurological, brain, respiratory, circulatory, endocrine,
and reproductive functions).
If an impairment doesn't significantly limit a person's ability
to perform a major life activity, it isn't a disability protected
by the ADA. Temporary ailments also don't count as disabilities.
If needed, an employer must provide a reasonable accommodation -- an adjustment
or modification that allows the employee to do the job -- to a qualified
employee with a disability. The employer isn't required to guess whether
a reasonable accommodation is needed. Also, the employer isn't required
to provide the particular accommodation an employee requests if another
accommodation will do. But the employer must engage in the "interactive
process," a dialogue with the employee about accommodations that
will meet that person's needs.
In this case, the consent decree ending the case was signed by U.S. District
Court Judge Sara Lioi on May 29, 2014. In addition to requiring the company
to make the $72,500 payment to Adair, the three-year decree requires Lifecare
Medical Services to revise its attendance and punctuality policy to include
a procedure for invoking a request for reasonable accommodation; provide
yearly training on the ADA and reasonable accommodation for all supervisory,
managerial and human resources personnel; and post a notice regarding
the outcome of the lawsuit on its employee bulletin board for three years.
If you are employed in New York, have a disability and feel you have been
denied a reasonable accommodation, contact the attorneys at Schwartz and
Perry LLP. We can help you enforce your rights under the law.