NEW ORLEANS (Legal Newsline) — The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a lawsuit July 12 against Advanced Home Care, a nonprofit corporation in North Carolina that operates a call support center in High Point, for allegations of discriminating against a disabled employee.
According to EEOC allegations, Elizabeth Pennell was a patient account representative at the defendants’ call center in High Point. Pennell, who has asthma, was hospitalized in August 2015 and diagnosed with chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These conditions, according to EEOC, are a disability as per the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
After Pennell returned from medical leave, she asked to telework as an accommodation for her disability. Pennell alleged by teleworking she could avoid fragrances, scents and odors that aggravate her respiratory conditions. The company denied this request on three separate occasions between August and December 2015. Pennell was eventually fired because she ran out of medical leave.
"When a qualified employee with a disability is ready and willing to work, the employer has a legal duty to provide a reasonable accommodation to make that employment possible unless the employer can show undue hardship," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District. "Employers must be flexible in evaluating requests from their employees for reasonable accommodation."
The EEOC seeks back pay along with compensatory and punitive damages for Pennell. The agency also seeks injunctive relief to prevent the defendants from committing discrimination in the future.