Foothills Child Development Center Agrees to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit
Company Fired Employee for Participation in Medication-Assisted Treatment for Drug Addiction, Federal Agency Charged
GREENVILLE, S.C. - Foothills Child Development Center, Inc., a South Carolina corporation that owns and operates a preschool in Easley, S.C., will provide monetary relief to a former employee and modify its employment policies to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency recently announced.
According to the EEOC, the Foothills Child Development Center violated federal law when it terminated an employee, Leon Dabrowski, after he disclosed his participation in a supervised medication-assisted treatment (MAT) program. Foothills hired Dabrowski as an afterschool teacher at its Easley, S.C. facility. EEOC alleged that at the time of hire, Dabrowski disclosed his prior opiate addiction and participation in a MAT program, through which he was legally prescribed the drug Suboxone as part of his treatment. Foothills terminated Dabrowski about thirty (30) minutes into his first work day due to his Suboxone use. The EEOC contends that Foothills failed to conduct an individualized assessment prior to terminating Dabrowski. The assessment would have helped determine what effect, if any, the Suboxone had on Dabrowski's ability to perform his job duties. Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability.
Prior to the EEOC initiating its lawsuit, which was filed on May 7, 2018 in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Greenville Division (EEOC v. Foothills Child Development Center, Inc.,Civil Action No. 6:18-cv-01255-AMQ-KFM), the EEOC and Foothills reached a resolution regarding the same.
As part of the settlement, Foothills is required to pay Dabrowski $5,000. In addition, the company has entered into a five-year consent decree which requires it to amend its written drug use policy to include a clear and specific exclusion to the policy for individuals who use legally-obtained prescription medication in a lawfully-prescribed manner. Foothills has agreed to create an ADA-compliant procedure for conducting an individualized assessment of an employee who is enrolled in any form of alcohol, drug, or illegal substance rehabilitation program in order to determine whether the individual can safely perform the essential functions of her/his position with or without reasonable accommodation. The consent decree also requires the company to provide annual training on the requirements of the ADA and its prohibition against discrimination and retaliation in the workplace, and to report to the EEOC the identities of all applicants who were denied employment and employees who were terminated due to current or past alcohol, drug, or substance use.
"Employers should make employment decisions based on an applicant's qualifications and an employee's performance, not based on disability or participation in a medically-assisted treatment program," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "We appreciate that Foothills Child Development Center worked with the EEOC to resolve this case fairly, expeditiously and without incurring unnecessary litigation expenses. This settlement is designed to help ensure that future applicants and employees are protected from disability discrimination."