John Muir Health settles EEOC ‘latex bias’ charges

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Hiring,Human Resources

John Muir Health agreed to settle bias charges brought by the EEOC, claim­ing the East Bay hospital system dis­­criminated against job applicants ­perceived to have latex allergies.

According to the federal agency, in 2004 John Muir Health refused to hire seven nurses and one lab technician for jobs at its Walnut Creek and Concord facilities because post-offer pre-employment tests determined they had severe latex allergies. The gloves health care workers use are usually made of latex rubber.

However, later tests conducted by board-certified allergists allegedly concluded that an allergy would not have precluded the applicants from working safely in hospital settings.

The EEOC’s suit alleged violations of the ADA and the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

Under the 18-month consent decree, John Muir agreed to pay $340,000 to the seven applicants. It also agreed to devise new hiring policies, develop training for determining whether a latex-related work restriction can be accommodated and train managers to prevent discrimination.

Under the settlement, candidates for employment and employees who test positive for latex allergies will be referred to an allergist to determine if any workplace restrictions are necessary. Before rescinding a job offer or transferring or firing an employee suspected of having latex allergies, the hospital will now have to send the worker a letter explaining how essential job functions are affected by the latex-laden products used in the work environment. The worker then will be given the opportunity to submit additional documentation.

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