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 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.
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."
One of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP) is for the agency to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including qualification standards and inflexible leave policies that discriminate against individuals with disabilities as well as accommodating pregnancy-related issues under the ADA and the PDA.
More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.