Business & Real Estate

EEOC alleges Dignity Health violated disabilities act in firing worker with vision loss

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is alleging that Dignity Health violated federal law when it did not accommodate an employee at its Mercy Medical Center in Redding after she suffered a loss of vision, the agency announced Wednesday.

Alina Sorling worked as a food service technician in Mercy Medical Center’s cafeteria for more than 10 years, performing tasks that included cashiering, grilling, cleaning and stocking, according to the EEOC lawsuit. Following an illness that left her with vision loss, she took an unpaid leave of absence to rehabilitate and learn skills for independent living.

But when she tried to return to work, Dignity cited a 20/40 vision requirement it had not used during Sorling’s prior employment, according to the disability discrimination lawsuit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Sorling had sought multiple accommodations to ease her return to work.

“We are aware that a lawsuit has been filed,” reads a statement from Dignity Health. “We do not discuss any matters related to pending litigation.”

The EEOC statement said that Sorling “successfully mastered everyday tasks, including cooking in her own kitchen and excellent profici­ency with knife skills....Making unsupported assumptions about safety and her capacity, Dignity Health unilaterally rejected” the requested accommodations.

“Even when she offered to bring in a paid analyst to assess the job site and recommend accommodations, Dignity Health turned her down, and instead chose to fire her based on her impairment and an unjustifiable vision standard,” said EEOC trial attorney Ami Sanghvi.

The EEOC news release said Dignity Health had never administered a vision test in the 10 years Sorlin had worked there. The commission also cited the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

The lawsuit is seeking compensation, lost wages and punitive damage as well as injunctive relief “designed to prevent such discrimination in the future,” according to the release.

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