Thursday, May 14, 2009

Hospital Fires Cancer Patient

“It is particularly disturbing and sadly ironic when a health care facility of all places refuses to reasonably accommodate an employee’s disability"

. . . said EEOC Acting Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence after a hospital settled a disability discrimination case filed by the EEOC.

LifeCare Hospitals of Pittsburgh, Inc. will pay $100,000 and furnish other equitable relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC, which had charged the hospital with firing an employee because she had cancer.

According to the EEOC, former business manager Diana Altieri-Hand needed a reasonable accommodation for her disability after she had surgery for cancer and underwent chemotherapy. Altieri-Hand was a longstanding employee of LifeCare Hospitals of Pittsburgh or its predecessor and had a good performance record.

LifeCare Hospitals of Pittsburgh, a free-standing hospital facility managed or operated by LifeCare Management Services, LLC, initially provided a reasonable accommodation to Altieri-Hand. However, the EEOC charged, in about August 2007 the regional director of finance suddenly stopped accommodating Altieri-Hand’s disability and demanded that she return to work full-time with no restrictions.

The EEOC’s complaint alleged that after Altieri-Hand returned to work full-time, the supervisor discriminated against her because of her disability, including substantially increasing her workload, removing her full-time staff assistant, and subjecting her to unwarranted work scrutiny.

Finally, the EEOC charged, the hospital fired Altieri-Hand because of her disability.
Disability discrimination violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for employees’ disabilities as long as this does not pose an undue hardship on the business.

The consent decree resolving the lawsuit prohibits the hospital from engaging in disability discrimination and retaliation. As part of the settlement, the hospital will also train all employees regarding the ADA’s prohibitions against disability discrimination. LifeCare did not admit liability in the consent decree, which is pending judicial approval.

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