In addition to the $115,000 payment, Florida’s largest non-profit behavioral health organization must also make certain internal changes to prevent future disability discrimination.
According to the EEOC suit, Henrietta Tice, the program manager for Aspire’s Village Housing Program, tore her rotator cuff while on the job. She continued to work until she was restricted by her doctor from using her arm. She then went on medical leave and underwent surgery. Still recovering, Tice was terminated by Aspire once her leave expired. Her discharge letter stated; “In the future, if you qualify to meet the physical requirements for a job vacancy at Aspire, feel free to apply since you are eligible to rehire.” Soon after termination, her doctor cleared her to work without restriction.
Later, a position with the Village Housing Program at Aspire became available. Ms. Tice reached out to the program manager requesting an interview. The interview was scheduled, but on the day of the appointment, just hours before the interview, Aspire cancelled the interview. According to the suit, Aspire HR had informed the program manager that Ms. Tice was not eligible for rehire. Ms. Tice then reached out to Aspire’s Chief Operating Officer for clarification. The COO said that he would look into the discrepancy, but never got back to Tice. Ms. Tice alleged that the failure to rehire was based upon her workers’ compensation file.
The EEOC attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement with Aspire before filing a disability discrimination lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. In addition to paying $115,000 settlement, Aspire agreed to update their policies against disability discrimination and conduct training for its HR officials.
StraightforWARD Legal Advice:
Aspire’s case is a reminder to employers of the need to maintain strong policies and training against disability discrimination. Proper action from Aspire’s COO or its HR department likely would have avoided a costly disability discrimination suit. Many cases turn on personal relationships and how an employer treats its employee or potential employee. Ignoring a potential problem and lack of communication may be the worst ways an employer can proceed. Bad blood can often sow the seeds of litigation.