People with disabilities are often required to lead fundamentally different lives from those without disabilities. These differences manifest themselves in more ways than just inability to use stairs or hear when someone is calling their name. Depending on the disability, people must cope in different ways, and a lawsuit filed one year ago against Kaiser Permanente has recently served as a reminder of why employers must accommodate such disabilities. The lawsuit was filed after the company’s San Diego, California facility fired a worker rather than giving said worker the reasonable accommodation he requested.
According to the lawsuit, Kaiser hired a food service worker with a medical condition called hydrocephalus. This condition can affect concentration and memory and can cause dizziness. The worker requested additional training when he was hired and also asked for a temporary job coach to help him perform the functions of his job. A nearby nonprofit organization, Toward Maximum Independence, was even capable of providing the coaching services at no cost, meaning that Kaiser would not have had to pay more out of their own pockets.
Instead of granting these reasonable accommodation requests, Kaiser simply fired the worker. This prompted the lawsuit back in September 2013, where the EEOC alleged that Kaiser had violated the ADA. Fast forward more than one year, and Kaiser has only just recently agreed to settle the case by paying $75,000.
The important thing to take away from this lawsuit is that disability discrimination can come in many different forms. It can be difficult for non-disabled individuals to respect or understand all the ways in which a disability can affect a disabled person’s life, but understanding is not what matters. What matters is the legal obligation that employers and businesses have to accommodate these disabilities.
Source: Times of San Diego, “Kaiser Coughing UP $75K for Ex-Worker Denied a Job Coach,” Alexander Nguyen, Oct. 8, 2014