DALLAS, TX (STL.News) – Assisted Living Concepts, LLC d/b/a Enlivant and North Brook Place, a national owner and operator of senior living facilities, violated federal law by failing or refusing to make a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability resulting in her termination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed Friday.
According to the EEOC, Meeka Henderson worked as a chef at the North Brook Place facility owned by Assisted Living Concepts, LLC d/b/a Enlivant (Enlivant). Soon after she was hired in September 2016, Henderson informed Enlivant that she had a medical condition necessitating hysterectomy surgery and requested the accommodation of a medical leave of absence. Henderson’s direct supervisor approved her request, and she began a medical leave of absence on March 29, 2017. One day prior to her scheduled surgery, Henderson was contacted by Enlivant’s human resources department and was told that if she did not return to work by April 30, 2017, she would be terminated. EEOC alleges that Henderson underwent surgery and provided Enlivant with a doctor’s letter stating that she would not be able to return to work until May 20, 2017. Enlivant denied this requested accommodation and instead, terminated Henderson’s employment on April 30, 2017.
Joel Clark, senior trial attorney for the EEOC, said: “Meeka Henderson made Enlivant aware of her impending surgery and requested accommodation. Rather than engaging with her, the senior living center denied her request of leave, resulting in her unlawful termination.”
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees’ disabilities. The EEOC sued in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Civil Action No. 3:19-CV-2304-L after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks injunctive relief, including the formulation of policies to prevent disability discrimination in the future, as well as lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages.
Robert Canino, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Dallas District Office added, “It is disappointing to see employers who are in the business of healthcare deny recovery time to employees who may experience health issues of their own. EEOC will pursue laws that promote a ‘healthy’ work environment when it comes to eliminating the ills of discrimination in any workplace.”