According to a December 6, 2018, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) release, Visalia, California-based Family HealthCare Network (FHCN) will pay $1.75 million and provide other relief to settle a claim filed by the EEOC. The suit claims the health care network failed to provide reasonable accommodations to its disabled and/or pregnant employees. Further, the company refused to provide additional leave and eventually fired the disabled or pregnant employees when they were unable to return to work at the end of their leave. Using rigid policies and practices regarding employee leave, Family HealthCare discharged some employees before they had exhausted their approved leave and failed to rehire them when they returned to work.
FHCN operates community health centers and patient-centered medical homes in Tulare, Kings, and Fresno Counties. The company operates over 2o locations and has been operating since 1976. FHCN's actions described above violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) as well as Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as amended by the Pregnancy Discrimination Act (PDA), and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.
In addition to the $1.75 million in monetary relief, a three-year consent decree requires Family HealthCare to retain an EEO monitor to review and revise the company's policies. The company will also implement effective training regarding preventing discrimination and harassment based on disability and/or sex-pregnancy for the owners, human resources, supervisory personnel and staff. FHCN will also develop a centralized tracking system for employee requests for accommodations and discrimination complaints. Lastly, FHCN is also required to submit regular reports to the EEOC verifying compliance with the decree.
As Kingsley & Kingsley has covered in the past, one of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) is for the agency to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including qualification standards and inflexible leave policies that discriminate against individuals with disabilities as well as accommodating pregnancy-related issues under the ADA and the PDA.
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