$100,000 To Settle Disability Discrimination Suit; Training Required

Tuesday, September 26, 2017
Vicksburg Healthcare, LLC, dba River Region Medical Center, which provides inpatient and outpatient medical and surgical services in Vicksburg, Miss., and surrounding areas, has agreed to pay $100,000 to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the EEOC's suit, Beatrice Chambers, a former licensed practical nurse employed by River Region, sought and was approved for sick leave from work to have surgery on her shoulder. Shortly before her leave was to expire, Chambers requested, consistent with the advice of her physical therapist and physician, a reasonable accommodation of an extension of her leave, or to return to work on light duty. River Region refused Chambers' requests, refused to provide any accommodation, and failed to engage in any interactive process to try to reach a solution. According to the EEOC, River Region refused to place Chambers temporarily in an available light-duty position for which she was qualified, and then terminated her after 36 years of employment there.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee's disability, unless the employer would suffer an undue hardship as a result. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Civil Action No. 5:13-cv-00189-KS-MTP) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Northern Division on Sept. 30, 2013 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. After the district court dismissed the case, the EEOC appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (EEOC v. Vicksburg Healthcare, L.L.C., No. 15-60764 (5th Cir. Oct. 12, 2016)). The case was settled after the Fifth Circuit reversed summary judgment and returned the case to the district court for trial.

In addition to monetary relief, the one-year consent decree settling the suit requires River Region to provide training to its employees on its obligations under the ADA, review its anti-discrimination policies and modify them if necessary, and enjoins the company from engaging in any discrimination or retaliation because of disability. The decree also requires River Region to post notices on its bulletin boards reaffirming to its employees its policy not to discriminate against employees with disabilities, and informing them of their right to contact the EEOC if they feel they have been discriminated or retaliated against.

After one year, the EEOC and River Region will confer with the court to determine whether River Region has complied with the decree's terms. The court will retain jurisdiction of the case for one year to ensure that River Region complies with the terms.
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