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Phoebe Putney Hospital Sued by EEOC For Disability Discrimination

Hospital Discharged Employee Because She Requested Leave Due to Her Medical Condition, Federal Agency Charged

ATLANTA - Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, a regional medical center located in Albany, Ga., violated federal disability discrimination law when it fired an employee after she requested leave due to her medical condition, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently charged in a lawsuit.

According to the EEOC's suit, in May 2016, Phoebe Putney discharged Medical Records Analyst Wendy Kelley rather than grant her request for a reasonable accommodation in the form of leave to receive treatment for her medical condition. Kelley was fired within days of requesting two weeks of medical leave to comply with her doctor's restrictions that she not work during that time. Due to her condition, Kelley fainted at the hospital's facility on the way to meet with her supervisor about her request for leave. Instead of rescheduling the meeting, Phoebe Putney denied Kelley's request for leave and terminated her employment.

Such conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17-CV-00201-WLS) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, Albany Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking reinstatement, back pay, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages for Kelley, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent future discrimination.

"An employer cannot discharge an employee because that employee has an actual or perceived disability or because she sought a reasonable accommodation," said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC's Atlanta District Office. "The employee here sought to exercise her rights under the ADA to receive a reasonable accommodation, but instead of accommodating her, the hospital simply kicked her out the door. Such conduct violates federal law, and the EEOC is here to stand up for the victims of such thoughtless discrimination."

Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, district director of the Atlanta office, said, "The EEOC is committed to stopping workplace disability discrimination in Georgia and across the country. An employee should not have to risk being fired when seeking an accommodation under the ADA or because the employer perceives the employee as disabled."