Senior Living Center Fired Chef Because of Required Post-Operative Recovery Time,Federal Agency Charged
DALLAS - Assisted Living Concepts, LLC, doing business as Enlivant, a national owner and operator of senior living facilities, has agreed to pay a former chef $66,000 and is making significant changes to its human resources programs to enhance compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). These terms are part of a settlement of a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC, Meeka Henderson worked as a chef at the North Brook Place facility in Dallas, which was owned and operated by Assisted Living Concepts / Enlivant. After beginning a medical leave of absence, and just one day prior to a scheduled surgery, Henderson was told that if she did not return to work without restrictions by a certain date, she would be terminated. The EEOC said that when Henderson couldn't return to work without restrictions on the required date, Enlivant fired her.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations to employees' disabilities. The EEOC sued in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Civil Action No. 3:19-cv-2304-L) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the monetary relief to be paid to Henderson under the two-year consent decree, signed by U.S. District Court Judge Sam A. Lindsay, the assisted living provider has also agreed to training of human resources directors and managers and will disseminate policies that specifically address the ADA accommodation issues. Online training for employees will also be planned. Subsequent to the filing of the EEOC charge by Henderson, Enlivant sold the business operation at North Brook in McKinney, Texas, and no longer employs the individuals the EEOC identified as responsible for the discriminatory decisions.
"Chef Henderson was looking forward to returning to her job in the kitchen at the senior living center," said Joel Clark, senior trial attorney for the EEOC. "But for the employer's rigid policy, she could have continued her role in service to the residents of the facility. The EEOC will continue its mission of defending employees against disability discrimination."
Robert Canino, regional attorney of the EEOC's Dallas District Office, added, "The commitments that Enlivant makes under the terms of this agreement affirm the importance of giving employees full and fair consideration when accommodation issues arise. This kind of self-evaluation and transformative initiatives in the health care industry can serve as an example to employers in other industries as well."
The EEOC advances opportunities in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.