The Children’s Hospital and Research Center in Oakland has reached a settlement with an employee who had cancer and was fired for taking too much medical leave.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer, the woman requested leave to have a double mastectomy. After she used six months of leave, she brought the hospital a doctor’s note stating she could return to work in two months.
Managers opted to rely on their own medical opinions rather than the doctor’s. One manager thought she looked “fragile,” while others concluded she was unlikely to return to work. The hospital terminated her based on those assumptions.
The woman filed an EEOC complaint alleging the hospital violated the ADA by refusing to grant her reasonable accommodation request for more time off. The EEOC attempted to resolve the dispute through its conciliation process. When the parties could not come to agreement, the commission filed suit on the woman’s behalf. Rather than go to court, the hospital decided to settle.
Children’s Hospital will pay the woman $300,000 and revise its disability accommodation policy. That policy will be posted on the hospital’s Intranet.
Note: Inflexible company policies frequently conflict with the ADA’s individual assessment requirement. Employers that disregard medical opinion do so at their own peril. Any employer claiming an accommodation causes an undue hardship must back that assertion with hard data.