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University of Md. Faculty Physicians settles ADA suit

University of Maryland Faculty Physicians Inc. has agreed to pay $92,500 to settle a claim that it unlawfully fired a woman with Crohn’s disease after she requested an extra day of unpaid leave after being treated for the condition.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit in September on behalf of Doneen King, who had worked as a medical practice representative answering phone calls and scheduling appointments in the group’s pediatric specialty clinic for about three months before being fired in January 2010.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, King was unable to work for two weeks in December 2009. During that time, she went to the emergency room twice and was hospitalized before being diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory bowel illness.

On Jan. 7, 2010, a Thursday, she told her employer of the diagnosis, and said she would not be able to come back to work until the following Monday.

Faculty Physicians terminated her employment on Jan. 8, 2010, the complaint alleged.

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court in Baltimore after Faculty Physicians rejected its attempts at settlement, the commission said. It said the medical practice violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because it did not provide for exceptions or modifications to the attendance policy as a reasonable accommodation for individuals with disabilities.

“It is shocking and ironic that a large medical practice refused to help an employee with a disability and failed to provide such a simple and inexpensive reasonable accommodation — an extra day of unpaid leave — as required by federal law,” Debra M. Lawrence, an attorney with the EEOC, said in a statement when the lawsuit was filed.

Lawrence said the settlement, which was reached last week, was designed to ensure that “all employees with disabilities are provided with a reasonable accommodation to allow them to continue working.”

According to its website, University of Maryland Faculty Physicians coordinates and supports the clinical activities of the University of Maryland School of Medicine and employs over 1,000 non-physician staff who support the clinical practices of the University of Maryland faculty.

A spokeswoman for the medical school said she could not comment on the case. The medical practice’s attorney, Kathleen A. Talty of Kruchko & Fries in Baltimore, did not return a call requesting comment.

In addition to agreeing to pay King $92,500, Faculty Physicians entered into a three-year consent decree to resolve the lawsuit. While the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing, the practice has agreed to revise its lateness and absenteeism policy to permit reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities.

It must also train all supervisory, managerial and human resources personnel on the act and post a notice regarding the resolution of the lawsuit at its facilities. It must also report to the commission on its compliance with the consent decree, including its handling of requests for leave as a reasonable accommodation and the resolution of any complaints of disability discrimination.

Spencer H. Lewis Jr., district director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia office, said in the statement following the settlement that “it is not only good business practice to provide reasonable and inexpensive accommodations that allow employees with disabilities to remain employed, it is required by federal law.”

EEOC V. UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND FACULTY PHYSICIANS INC.

Court:

U.S. District Court, Baltimore

Case No:

1:12-cv-02887

Judge:

George L. Russell, III

Outcome:

Settled before trial for monetary and injunctive relief; plaintiff to receive $92,500

Dates:

Incident: Jan. 8, 2010

Complaint filed: Sept. 27, 2012

Settled: Feb. 14, 2013

Plaintiff’s attorneys:

Debra Michele Lawrence, Tanya Lea Goldman and Maria Salacuse, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Defendant’s attorneys:

Kathleen A. Talty, Kruchko & Fries in Baltimore.

Counts:

Violations of Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.