U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission issued the following announcement on April 16.
Pulmonary Specialists of Tyler and Sleep Health, medical providers in Tyler, Texas, will pay $30,000 and will change its policies and practices to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced.
According to the lawsuit brought by the EEOC in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Tyler Division) (Civil Action No. 6:18-cv-00338-RWS), Sleep Health required employees to complete a Medical Questionnaire that contained unlawful medical inquiries that were not job related nor required by business necessity. The EEOC alleged that the medical questionnaire asked if employees had any of over 20 listed medical conditions, whether the employee had an impairment or disability, whether the employee had previous surgery or received a permanent disability rating. Former employee Angela Abler answered all of the questions truthfully, stating that she had been injured on-the-job in 1996, and had back surgery, and as a result, was given a permanent partial disability rating. However, this back surgery and resulting disability did not impact her ability to perform the work of Billing/Collections Specialist. Within a week after completing the medical questionnaire, Ms. Abler was terminated.
"PSOT and Sleep Health's requirements for unnecessarily broad disclosure of this information was by itself a violation of the ADA. Terminating Ms. Abler's employment based upon her answers to the unlawful questionnaire just made matters worse with yet another violation," said Supervisory Trial Attorney Suzanne M. Anderson for the EEOC.
A three-year consent decree, signed on April 15, 2019 by U.S. District Court Judge Robert W. Schroeder III, calls for the defendants to provide monetary relief to Ms. Abler. The consent decree also specifies that the medical providers will cease use of the medical questionnaire and implement policies prohibiting discrimination against persons with disabilities.
"It can be a good thing to see businesses in the healthcare industry set an example for others when it comes to the ADA," said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert Canino. "This constructive settlement is a good result for everyone involved.