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Banner Health Settles EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit for $255,000

Health Care Company Fired 21-Year  Successful Worker Because of Intellectual Disability, Federal  Agency Charged

PHOENIX -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced  today that it has settled a disability discrimination lawsuit against Banner  Health, headquartered in Phoenix. The EEOC had charged the company with breaching  a mediation agreement it entered into, and firing and failing to accommodate an  employee because he had a disability. Banner Health operates in Colorado,  Nebraska, Arizona,  California, Nevada,  Wyoming, and Alaska. It is one of the largest non-profit health  care systems in the country.

According to the EEOC’s suit, EEOC  v. Banner Health, CV-10-01432-SRB, filed in U.S. District Court for the  District of Arizona in Phoenix, Banner Health (formerly called Banner Mesa  Lutheran) hired Lee Fladmo in 1984 as a kitchen worker/dietary aide. Fladmo has an intellectual disability;  however, he could perform his job if he received supervision sensitive to his  needs. During the course of his  employment at Banner, Fladmo had made numerous requests for reasonable  accommodation which were ignored.

In 2002, following a charge of discrimination filed with the EEOC,  Banner entered into a mediated settlement in which it promised that it would  not take any actions with respect to Fladmo’s employment without addressing  them to his brother, who had his power of attorney. Some three years later, Fladmo made another  request for an accommodation, which Banner refused to offer and did not discuss  with his brother, breaching the mediation agreement, and ultimately fired him.

Such alleged conduct  violates the Americans  with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against  qualified individuals with disabilities, and requires employers to provide  reasonable accommodations to enable their employees to work, absent undue  hardship

In addition to the settlement requiring Banner  to pay $255,000 to the Lee Fladmo Special Needs Trust, the company also must  provide training at the Banner Gateway site for its managerial and supervisory  employees on disability discrimination, develop policies prohibiting disability  discrimination, if necessary, and post a notice that disability discrimination  is unlawful and will not be tolerated.

“Many disabled persons are  qualified, ready and willing to work -- all they need is an equal opportunity,”  said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez. “This case demonstrates that  when employees, in particular one with an intellectual disability, are  prevented from working because of an unlawful reason, they will be protected  under the law.”

EEOC Regional  Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill said, “People with disabilities are an untapped  resource that employers should utilize. Here, at the very least, a  job coach would have assisted Mr. Fradmo without cost to Banner.”

Rayford O. Irvin, district director  of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, added, “We will continue to vigorously  pursue our mission of fighting employment discrimination on all fronts. We  encourage employers and employees to sit down together and cooperate to find an  accommodation that works for all parties involved, regardless of the  disability.”

The EEOC’s Phoenix District Office has  jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado,  Utah, Wyoming,  and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque).

© Copyright U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity CommissionNational Law Review, Volume II, Number 214
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is responsible for enforcing federal laws that make it illegal to discriminate against a job applicant or an employee because of the person's race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.

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