U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued the following announcement on Dec. 6.
Family HealthCare Network will pay $1.75 million and furnish other relief to settle a systemic disability and pregnancy discrimination suit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced. The Visalia, Calif.-based health care company operates over 20 health care sites in Tulare, Kings and Fresno Counties.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Family HealthCare used its rigid leave policies and practices to deny reasonable accommodations to its disabled and/or pregnant employees, refusing to accommodate them with additional leave and firing them when they were unable to return to work at the end of their leave. In some instances, Family HealthCare discharged individuals before they had even exhausted their approved leave and failed to rehire them when they tried to return to work.
Such alleged conduct violates 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. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of California (EEOC v. Family Healthcare Network,Case No. 1:18-cv-00893-DAD-BAM) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the $1.75 million in monetary relief, the three-year consent decree requires Family HealthCare to retain an EEO monitor to review and revise the company's policies, as appropriate. The company will also implement effective training regarding preventing discrimination and harassment based on disability and/or sex-pregnancy for the owners, human resources and supervisory personnel and staff. Additionally, Family HealthCare will develop a centralized tracking system for employee requests for accommodations and discrimination complaints. The company is also required to submit regular reports to the EEOC verifying compliance with the decree.
"We commend the efforts of Family HealthCare Networks in resolving this case and providing substantial relief to those affected by the company's policies and practices," said Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District, which includes Tulare, Kings and Fresno Counties.
Melissa Barrios, director of EEOC's Fresno Local Office, added, "The EEOC continues to see cases in which employers have a rigid leave policy that discriminates against individuals with disabilities or pregnant employees. We are encouraged by Family HealthCare's desire to resolve this complaint and put in place policies to ensure that all employees are treated equitably under the law."
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