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EEOC reaches $95K settlement in disability discrimination suit

A Rockville-based title insurance company has agreed to pay $95,000 to settle a case brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of a former employee who claimed she was fired after requesting a part-time schedule to accommodate treatments for her kidney disease.

The EEOC alleged that First Title & Escrow Inc. violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when company supervisors revoked an offer to decrease Tamara Littlejohn’s hours so that she could receive dialysis treatments. The company then fired Littlejohn after she had surgery that enabled her to undergo dialysis at home while working full-time, according to the complaint.

The settlement includes $55,000 in back pay and $40,000 in compensatory damages, according to the consent decree filed March 10 in U.S. District Court in Greenbelt.

First Title and its related company Streamline Title & Escrow Services LLC, which together operate as a single employer, did not admit to wrongdoing by agreeing to the consent decree. Rather, the company claimed Littlejohn was permitted to work the modified schedule she proposed, and was laid off as part of a reduction in staff.

Littlejohn worked for First Title as a title examiner from August 2003 through January 2005, and again from March 2009 to December 2009. In January 2010, she was diagnosed with end-stage renal disease, which interferes with kidney function and necessitates dialysis or a kidney transplant.

After Littlejohn informed the company vice president, Pamela Gibbons, of her condition, Gibbons told her to get in touch once she was accustomed to the dialysis and could return to work, according to the complaint. In June 2010, Littlejohn requested to return on a part-time basis, and Gibbons agreed, it said.

However, in December 2010, the company’s human resources director told Littlejohn she needed to begin working eight-hour days again, according to the complaint.

“This company initially did the right thing and provided a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a serious illness, but for some reason revoked its proper decision,” said Spencer H. Lewis Jr., the EEOC’s regional director for Maryland and neighboring states, in a statement. “The EEOC will come to bat for victims of such harmful actions against people with disabilities.”

Littlejohn decided to undergo surgery that would allow her to perform dialysis at home and return to a full-time position after a two-week healing period followed by three days of training to learn how to independently operate the dialysis equipment. After the surgery, the company required her to sign a “written acknowledgement” stating she would begin working full time on Feb. 21, 2011.

But about a week after Littlejohn began logging full-time hours, another employee was demoted to her position. The following day, Littlejohn called in sick, and when she returned to work the next day, she was fired. The HR director told her there was not enough work to sustain her position and that she should be home taking care of herself, according to the EEOC complaint.

Michelle B. Radcliffe of Vienna, Va.-based law firm Isler Dare P.C., represented First Title. She did not respond to a request for comment Monday.

Settlement terms

In addition to the $95,000 settlement, First Title also agreed to provide supervisors and managers with training on ADA requirements, to post a notice at its workplaces informing employees of their rights under the ADA and directing them to EEOC resources, and to submit to the EEOC semi-annual reports on how the company handles complaints of disability discrimination for two years.

The company will also provide Littlejohn with a neutral reference and letter of recommendation that would state her dates of employment, position and work location.

Under the ADA, companies with at least 15 employees are required to make reasonable accommodations for workers and job applicants with disabilities, as long as the accommodation would not amount to “undue hardship” for the business.

The case was Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. First Title & Escrow, Inc., et al. No. 8:14-cv-03083-TDC.

About Lauren Kirkwood

Lauren Kirkwood covers the business of law beat at The Daily Record.