EEOC accuses Mississippi hospital of disability discrimination

By Mark Iandolo | Jul 31, 2017

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Legal Newsline) — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a lawsuit July 26 against Wesley Health System LLC, which does business as Merit Health Wesley and operates a general medical and surgical hospital in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, for allegations of failing to provide reasonable accommodation to a disabled employee.

"Employers cannot fire an employee because of a medical impairment when it does not affect the employee's ability to perform the essential functions of her job," said EEOC regional attorney Marsha L. Rucker. "This case should serve as a reminder that employers cannot rely on myths and fears about medical impairments or disabilities in denying qualified individuals employment opportunities. To do so is a clear violation of federal law."

According to EEOC, Lois Cooper had worked as a registered nurse for Merrit Health Wesley for about two years when she injured her arm and shoulder. After a three-month leave, she attempted to come back to work with a note from the doctor. According to the note, she was released for full duty with a heavy-lifting restriction. 

The company purportedly refused to allow her to return to work; the human resources office told her that based on the lifting restriction, she could not perform job duties. The EEOC says the company then let her go, without first engaging in the legally required interactive process to determine if she was qualified to perform her job.

EEOC seeks reinstatement and monetary damages as well as injunctive relief.

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