Crime - Sacto 911

Clinic pays damages to nurse fired during cancer treatment

Nationwide health care provider Dialysis Clinic Inc. will pay $190,000 in damages to a longtime nurse for allegedly firing and then refusing to rehire her when she needed more medical leave to complete treatment for breast cancer.

Francisca Lee had worked at the company’s Southgate Plaza location in Sacramento for 14 years when she took medical leave in December 2008 for mastectomy surgery and chemotherapy. After four months, according to a complaint filed in Sacramento federal court by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Dialysis Clinic notified Lee that she was being terminated for exceeding the amount of time off dictated by its medical leave policy.

This was done even though Lee, at the time of the notice, had been cleared by her doctor to return to work without restrictions in less than two months, the complaint said. It said that Lee was told she would have to reapply for an open position. However, when she did apply two months later, she was rejected, and not long after, the clinic hired a newly licensed nurse, the EEOC charged in its complaint, filed in July of last year. The agency claimed that Dialysis Clinic’s actions violated the federal Americans with Disabilities Act.

“While DCI is proud of its record of employing and making accommodations for persons with disabilities, we have since taken a second look at our extended medical leave practice … ,” company spokeswoman Jessica Emler said in an email Friday, after she was contacted at Dialysis Clinic’s Nashville headquarters. “We are committed to working with our staff as needed if their medical provider has determined that their situation requires additional time for treatment and/or recovery.”

In a statement prepared by EEOC, Lee said, “As a nurse, you understand that sometimes the healing process takes time. I am pleased to know that Dialysis Clinic will now take steps to ensure that employees can take the time they need for medical reasons without having to worry about losing their jobs.”

According to its website, Dialysis Clinic is a nonprofit corporation serving patients with advanced kidney disease. It has more than 5,000 employees and operates more than 210 clinics in 27 states, including three in the Sacramento area, the site says.

Under the terms of a consent decree resolving the suit, the company agreed to revise its policies regarding reasonable accommodations, provide anti-discrimination training to human resources personnel, and post notices regarding the EEOC/Lee lawsuit. In addition, Dialysis Clinic will periodically report to the EEOC on its handling of extended medical leave requests.

EEOC spokeswoman Linda Li said Lee, 72, has been cancer-free since 2009. She now is working in a dialysis clinic in the Sacramento region that is operated by a different company, according to Linda Ordonio Dixon, the EEOC attorney who handled the case.

Denny Walsh: 916-321-1189