The EEOC sees health care folks as fat, juicy targets in disability cases

It’s been some time now since I’ve written about the EEOC and “low hanging fruit” – so let me explain to new readers.

My review of the cases brought by the EEOC in the last few years leads me to believe that the EEOC finds that targeting health care professionals for disability or pregnancy discrimination yields cheap and quick results – settlement.

But why?

“What is it,” I have asked in numerous posts, “about health and medical care facilities that brings down the heavy hand of the EEOC so often, alleging Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and pregnancy discrimination under Title VII?  Is it that the helping profession somehow has an innate bias against the disabled and against pregnant women, and discriminates more than other employers?”

Nah, not likely.

Or, I’ve wondered:

Could it be that the EEOC sees such health care folks as fat, juicy targets — for example, accusing the “helping” or “caring profession,” which is there to treat the sick, disabled and pregnant, of disability discrimination surely attracts the inevitable sanctimonious media attention. Alleging that doctors discriminate on the basis of disability against the very folks that they are there to minister is sure to bolster a the EEOC’s image.”


After a number of posts about my observations, EEOC personnel began to implicitly acknowledge this targeting. For example, I wrote about a settlement with the EEOC which seems to evidence the “low hanging fruit” characterization – a Dallas home healthcare company agreed to pay $25,000 for allegedly discriminating against an employee with bipolar disorder by firing her when she requested leave to see her health care provider.

The EEOC regional attorney stated that:

We would expect that employers in the health care field would be keenly aware of the importance of supporting the medical needs of their employees by allowing reasonable time that may be required for treatment.

That’s the reason for my characterizing this targeting as “low hanging fruit,” and “shooting fish in a barrel.”

Got it?

The New Case

Well, the EEOC just sued a Maryland-based company which builds and manages retirement communities for firing a director “because she opposed perceived disability-based discrimination against her subordinate.”

Actually, this is a new twist to the typical case of disability discrimination since the director herself did not suffer from a disability – she complained of the mistreatment of a subordinate because of his perceived disability. She also allegedly “expressed concerns that she would be retaliated against for reporting what she believed was a discriminatory abuse of the company’s performance management system.”

Recall that opposing workplace discrimination is protected activity under the various anti-discrimination laws such as the ADA, whether if by one who believes she is discriminated against, or on behalf of another employee who is believed to be discriminated against. So one may bring a charge or complaint of discrimination on behalf of another – as this director did – and be protected against retaliation. At least that’s the law.

In this case the director was right to be concerned about retaliation – it was alleged that shortly after complaining on behalf of her subordinate both she and her subordinate were fired, purportedly for the oft-employed reason of “company restructuring.”


Anyway, the takeaway is for healthcare or medical facilities or personnel: be aware – be very aware – that the EEOC sees you as “low hanging fruit.”

Don’t become a diced fruit cocktail drink!

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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]