Employers Must Provide Disabled and Pregnant Employees Reasonable Accommodations
June 06, 2019
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has announced that a large health network which owned and operated three Arizona hospitals has agreed to pay $545,000 to settle a lawsuit which alleged discrimination against employees with disabilities and pregnant women with pregnancy-related medical conditions. The employer was faulted because it: refused to provide reasonable accommodations such as extended leave, reassignment, or assistive devices to employees with disabilities; had an inflexible 90-day leave policy and that they terminated employees with disabilities at the end of the 90 days without considering reasonable accommodations that would allow the employees to return to work; and discriminated against pregnant employees by refusing them accommodations provided to non-pregnant employees and by discharging pregnant employees who could not return to work within 90 days because of pregnancy-related medical conditions. Under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA) an employer must make reasonable accommodations for employees who have disabilities or who are pregnant, and must engage the employee in an interactive dialogue. An employer cannot have a one-size-fits-all inflexible leave policy; an employer must “make an individualized assessment of each request for accommodation. This lawsuit is a reminder to employers they have an obligation to make exceptions to attendance policies and provide leave as a form of reasonable accommodation unless doing so would result in undue hardship.