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Cushman & Wakefield to pay $100K to settle EEOC disability suit

Firm also has to institute new policies on reasonable accomodations

Baltimore real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield will pay $100,000 to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission claiming the firm fired an employee who was diagnosed with breast cancer instead of providing her with accommodations.

Toi Patterson had worked in the firm’s Columbia office as an administrator for nine years when she was diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer in 2014. The EEOC charged that Cushman & Wakefield violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 by firing Patterson because of her disability instead of providing scheduling accommodations that would have allowed her to keep her job.

Cushman & Wakefield will pay the settlement as part of an 18-month consent decree. The firm also will distribute an accommodations policy to all employees which includes part-time and modified work schedules and unpaid leave, the EEOC said Friday.

“Employers run afoul of the ADA if they don’t communicate with an employee with a disability to determine what reasonable accommodation, such as a modified work schedule or unpaid leave, that would keep the individual employed without imposing an undue hardship,” said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., district director of the EEOC’s Philadelphia district office, in a statement.

Patterson took medical leave after her diagnosis, according to the EEOC complaint. After she returned, her supervisor told her they “needed to talk” and warned Patterson that she would need to know when Patterson was going to be late to work or absent. Fearing difficulties in getting intermittent leave in the future, Patterson requested a period of continuous leave under the FMLA from June 9, 2014 to Aug. 10, 2014, the lawsuit states.

However, on July 31, Patterson asked her supervisor if she could come back to work on a fixed, part-time schedule and said she would need to take additional leave after her surgery. She gave the firm a work-release letter from her oncologist, according to the lawsuit, which authorized her to return to work on a part-time basis for a maximum of 25 hours a week, the suit states.

Instead of accommodating Patterson’s scheduling requests, the firm terminated her employment.

Cushman & Wakefield, as part of the settlement, will train annually all managers, supervisors and human resources personnel and inform all newly hired employees about its reasonable accommodation policies and the ADA. The company also has to keep the EEOC informed on how the firm handles complaints of disability discrimination and post a notice about the settlement, the EEOC said.

The case is Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Cassidy Turley Commercial Real Estate Services Inc. t/a Cushman & Wakefield, 1:16-cv-02788-JKB.

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