Urgent care centers as a whole go to great lengths to ensure their locations and facilities are accessible to all patients, regardless of any special needs they may have. It can be easy to overlook the employers’ responsibility under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to also provide accommodations that allow employees to do their jobs. One need look no further than a lawsuit in Virginia to be reminded, however. The case of a healthcare worker who claims she was fired from her job because of a disability has just been greenlighted by a federal appeals court in Richmond. The plaintiff, who had worked for the company for 28 years, has postaxial hypoplasia of the lower extremity—her lower legs are shorter than is typical; her right arm is also shorter than the left, as well. Though she had a history of satisfactory performance reviews, her manager complained that the employee missed deadlines, arrived late to meetings, and exhibited a “less-than-enthusiastic attitude.” The manager also alleged that the employee seemed to have more difficulty walking than usual. Then the employee fell three times in a 4-month span—though only once at work. After a fit-for-duty exam, an occupational nurse recommended certain accommodations. The employee didn’t feel some of them were necessary, and submitted her own request for accommodations. The company told her those accommodations would prevent her from fulfilling her duties and placed her on unpaid medical leave for 6 months, after which she was fired. Not long after, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit on the employee’s behalf. The latest ruling comes after the EEOE appealed a lower court decision to dismiss the case. Regardless of its eventual outcome, the case is a reminder of the consequences of failing to fulfill your responsibilities to workers with disabilities. In addition to the risk of a hefty judgment, an urgent care operator risks losing standing among its patient community and the trust of its work force.
Remember: ADA Rules Apply to Employees, Not Just Patient Accessibility