Nationwide health care provider Dialysis Clinic Inc. is guilty of disability discrimination for firing and refusing to rehire a nurse because her treatment for breast cancer was taking too long, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has alleged in a lawsuit filed in Sacramento federal court.
Francisca Lee had worked at the company’s facility on East Southgate Drive in south Sacramento for 14 years when she was diagnosed. She took medical leave to have a mastectomy and chemotherapy, according to the agency’s complaint.
Four months later, according to the complaint, the company notified Lee by mail that she was being terminated for exceeding the time limit dictated by its medical leave policy
At the time of Lee’s dismissal, she had been cleared by her physician to return to work without restrictions in less than two months, the complaint says.
Lee, 71, was told she would have to reapply for an open position, it says. However, when she did apply a little more than two months later, she was rejected. Not long after, according to a claim in the complaint, the company hired a newly-licensed nurse.
In a phone interview Friday from the nonprofit corporation’s Tennessee headquarters, Dialysis Clinic spokeswoman Jessica Emler said the company denies the EEOC’s allegations.
“DCI is proud of its record of employing and making accommodations for persons with disabilities, both in general and in this instance in particular,” she said. “DCI looks forward to sharing our account of what occurred.
“However, out of respect for the judicial process, DCI chooses to share the story in that forum and not in the media.”
Terminating a qualified employee because of a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The law also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability, unless doing so would impose an undue hardship on the employer.
The EEOC’s complaint alleges that it attempted to resolve the Lee matter before filing the suit through conciliation efforts, but to no avail.
“Given the ADA’s mandate, I would urge employers to be flexible concerning leave extensions if it causes no undue hardship,” said EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo. “Ms. Lee has over 30 years’ experience in dialysis treatment and really wanted to work.”
EEOC San Francisco District Director Michael Baldonado posed this rhetorical question: “Why sacrifice a valuable employee with a good record over an arbitrary time limit?”
“Ms. Lee is currently working full time as a nurse for another dialysis company,” said EEOC spokeswoman Linda Li. “She loves the work and has no plans to stop anytime soon.”
According to DCI’s website ( www.dciinc.org), the company serves patients with advanced kidney disease in more than 210 clinics in 27 states, including three locations in the Sacramento area.
Call The Bee’s Denny Walsh, (916) 321-1189.