Nonprofit Fired Employee Who Required Extended Leave, Federal Agency Charged
CHICAGO — Illinois Action for Children (IAFC), a large Illinois child care and childhood education-related nonprofit, has agreed to pay a former employee $60,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC, IAFC violated federal anti-discrimination law when it fired an employee who was on leave receiving treatment for breast cancer rather than granting her request for additional leave for more treatment.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities. The EEOC filed the case, EEOC v. Illinois Action for Children, Civil Action No. 17-cv-6224, on Oct. 28, 2017, in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process. EEOC Trial Attorneys Kelly Bunch and Ethan Cohen and Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason litigated the case against IAFC.
The consent decree settling the suit, entered by Judge Rebecca Pallmeyer on June 18, 2019, prohibits disability discrimination and retaliation at IAFC in the future. In addition to monetary relief of $60,000 for the former employee, over the next two years, the consent decree requires IAFC to provide annual in person training on the ADA to IAFC’s officers, supervisors, managers, and HR personnel, and online training on the ADA to all other employees. Over the next two years, IAFC will also keep a record and provide reports every seven months to the EEOC containing information related to the processing of medical leave requests (other than FMLA) for continuous leave in excess of one week.
“The EEOC brought this case after making every attempt at informal conciliation,” said Chicago District Director Julie Bowman. “This employer spent over a year in litigation after it terminated an employee less than a month before she would have been able to return to work from a medical leave of absence. Conciliation gives employers the chance to resolve charges of discrimination without taking on the burdens and expense of going to court. It is unfortunate when employers let this opportunity slip by them.”
EEOC Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour noted that this is the second ADA leave-of-absence case the Chicago District Office has settled in recent months.
Gochanour said, “These cases should serve as a reminder to employers that they need to consider their obligation to provide reasonable accommodations under the ADA when acting on an employee’s request for extended medical leave.”