More "Low Hanging Fruit" Plucked By The EEOC: "Perceived As" Disability

Another health care facility has been sued by the EEOC for alleged violations of the ADA – this time for violating the “perceived as” disabled provision.

A San Diego surgical center – the Sharp Memorial Outpatient Pavilion – allegedly refused to hire an applicant with a minor ankle problem that the EEOC said would not have affected her job performance. The claim is that the employer “perceived her as disabled,” even though she was later hired by a similar institution for the same job.

“We continue to see a rise in disability-related cases in the health care industry,” commented an EEOC official.   So have I, as a matter of long established fact – although less because there is an increase of such discrimination in the health care industry but more because the health care industry is easy pickins’ for the EEOC – our now famous “low hanging fruit.”

Afternoon, Agriculture, Autumn

Or, like “shooting fish in a barrel,” as I have often written.

Fish Bowl, Fish, Glass, Water, Bowl

Does the health care industry violate the Americans With Disabilities Act more often than other employers, I have asked many times?  Not likely, has always been my answer.   Could it be that the EEOC sees these cases as a chance to pad its won-lost record and get good PR – you know, the irony of the helping profession discriminating against the disabled?

Take a look at a few of my prior posts from my prior blog (where, as I have said, my byline was changed so that my first name appears now as “Fox”) if you think that the EEOC is joking  – October 1, 2012 December 13, 2013;  August 3, 2013, September 6, 2013October 19, 2013 .

I previously wrote that I had found support for my speculation about the EEOC’s motives — from an EEOC official.

He said that:

“Sometimes it looks like organizations engaged in the health care field or in the performance of other ‘good works’ consider it impossible for them to have discriminated — or to be challenged for having discriminated — particularly when it comes to the ADA. But our experience has been that all organizations, whatever their line of business and however they are organized, are vulnerable to falling into patterns or acts of discrimination if they do not consciously make compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws a priority. We are optimistic that the consent decree in this case will encourage that kind of compliance (emphasis added).”

Nonetheless, the takeaway here is, as the EEOC has correctly stated, “It is important for employers to properly engage people with disabilities and not allow stereotypes to drive employment decisions.”

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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]