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Medical Services Company Settles Disability Discrimination Suit


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.
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