Medical Center to Pay $300,000 for Disability Discrimination, Training Ordered

Thursday, February 12, 2015

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An Oakland-based non-profit regional medical center has agreed to pay $300,000 to a former employee with breast cancer and to implement revised policies and training to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

According to the EEOC's suit, Children's Hospital and Research Center fired Imelda Tamayo because she needed medical leave exceeding the hospital's six-month policy.  The office associate had worked in the endocrinology department since March 2009 and was diagnosed with breast cancer in December 2011.  Her initial request for two months' leave to have a double mastectomy was granted. But when her treatment plan required additional leave, Tamayo was fired.  On July 10, 2012, during a meeting to discuss her request for extended leave, managers improperly chose to rely on their own assessment that she looked "fragile" and unlikely to return to work, despite her doctor's note stating that Tamayo could resume work in September 2012. 

Terminating a qualified employee because of a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The law also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship for the employer.  Requesting an extended medical leave can be a reasonable accommodation.  After attempting to resolve the case through pre-litigation conciliation efforts, the EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Children's Hospital and Medical Center, Case No. CV 13-5715) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

According to the consent decree ordered by Judge Edward Chen, Children's Hospital will pay Tamayo $300,000 and will post its revised policy regarding accommodation of employees with disabilities on its employee intranet site.  The hospital will also provide anti-discrimination training, make periodic reports to the EEOC, and post a notice regarding the decree for three years.  EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Marcia Mitchell and Trial Attorney Debra A. Smith litigated the case for the federal agency.

Children's Hospital and Research Center is a non-profit organization with 30 medical specialties, over 200 doctors, and 2,500 employees at multiple sites in Oakland and the surrounding area.

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