Medstar Harbor Hospital Will Pay $179,576 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

EEOC, BALTIMORE – Harbor Hospital Inc., trading as MedStar Harbor Hospital, will pay $179,576 to resolve a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The EEOC said that MedStar Harbor Hospital violated federal law when it refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to and instead fired Jerome Alston, a respiratory therapist, because of his disability.

Jerome Alston (from Facebook)

Jerome Alston (from Facebook)

Alston had a kidney transplant and takes medication which compromises his immune system and increases his risk of infection. Due to his weakened immune system, Alston requested, and MedStar initially granted him, a “work-around” which excused him from working in isolation rooms with a mechanical ventilation system designed to trap infectious airborne materials. MedStar also gave some other employees similar work-arounds when requested.

EEOC charged that in November 2013, when Alston again needed a work-around, MedStar refused to grant this reasonable accommodation and instead abruptly terminated him because of his disability and his accommodation request.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits disability discrimination. The ADA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations unless doing so would cause a significant expense or difficulty to the employer.

The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division (EEOC v. Harbor Hospital Inc., t/a MedStar Harbor Hospital, Civil Action No. 1:16-03138-GLR) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the monetary relief to Alston, the five-year consent decree resolving the suit enjoins MedStar Harbor Hospital from violating the ADA in the future, including refusing to provide reasonable accommodations.

MedStar Harbor Hospital will revise and distribute to all employees a reasonable accommodations policy. It will provide ADA training to all managers, supervisors, human resources personnel, and occupational health department employees.

The hospital will provide Alston with a favorable letter of recommendation. MedStar Harbor Hospital will also report to the EEOC on how it handles any complaints of disability discrimination and post a notice regarding the settlement.

"Health care providers, like all employers, must be mindful of the obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation that allows an employee with a disability to remain employed," SPENCER H. LEWIS JR. Credit Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

“Health care providers, like all employers, must be mindful of the obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation that allows an employee with a disability to remain employed,” SPENCER H. LEWIS JR. (Photo credit Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times)

“Health care providers, like all employers, must be mindful of the obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation that allows an employee with a disability to remain employed,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Office Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. “It’s not only a good employment practice to retain loyal and productive workers; it’s required by federal law.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “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.”

“We are pleased that MedStar Harbor Hospital took these claims seriously,” she added  “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.”

MedStar Harbour Hospital is a part of MedStar Health which operates 120 medical facilities including 10 in the Washington Baltimore area.  MedStar is a private not-for-profit company.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.   For other EEOC cases click here.