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MedStar Harbor Hospital settles ADA lawsuit with EEOC

Baltimore facility will pay nearly $180,000, train supervisors

MedStar Harbor Hospital in 2004. (File)

MedStar Harbor Hospital in 2004. (File)

MedStar Harbor Hospital will pay nearly $180,000 to settle a claim it violated federal law by firing a respiratory therapist with a weakened immune system rather than providing him with a reasonable accommodation.

The Baltimore hospital reached the settlement last week with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on behalf of Jerome Alston, who must take medication that compromises his immune system and increases his risk of infection due to a kidney transplant he received almost a decade before he began working at MedStar, according to the EEOC.

The commission alleged the hospital fired Alston after rejecting his request not to work in “negative pressure rooms” – which use a ventilation system to isolate infectious airborne materials – because of his compromised system. EEOC filed suit against MedStar Harbor Hospital last September in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, alleging the company had violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The law requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for disabled employees and job applicants unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the company.

The hospital admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to the $179,576 settlement.

“MedStar Harbor Hospital remains committed to a workplace free from discrimination and will continue to comply with the law,” the facility said in a statement Monday. “We appreciate the importance of the interactive process when accommodations are requested, including implications of job and patient care requirements. We have agreed to resolve this case without any finding on the merits, and reaffirm our commitment to our patients and associates alike.”

The agreement requires the hospital to revise and notify employees of its policies on providing reasonable accommodations for their disabilities. The hospital also agreed to provide ADA-compliance training to its supervisors, human-resources personnel and occupational health department workers.

In addition, the hospital will provide Alston with a favorable letter of recommendation, report to the EEOC on how it handles ADA complaints and post a notice regarding the settlement.

“An employer must provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with a disability such as renal failure, whether it is needed because of limitations caused by the disability itself or by the side effects of medication or treatment for the disability,” EEOC regional attorney Debra M. Lawrence said in a statement. “We are pleased that MedStar Harbor Hospital took these claims seriously, cooperated in resolving this matter, and agreed to make meaningful policy changes to ensure that its employees and applicants are protected from disability discrimination and receive the accommodations to which they are entitled under the ADA.”

The case was EEOC v. Harbor Hospital Inc. t/a MedStar Harbor Hospital, 1:16-cv-03138-GLR.

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