Telecare Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination

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SEATTLE – Mental health and psychiatric treatment provider Telecare Mental Health Services of Washington, Inc. violated federal law when it withdrew a job offer because of a qualified applicant’s disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed on Sept. 30.

According to the EEOC’s suit, after a successful interview in which the job applicant disclosed a leg injury that prevented him from prolonged walking, sitting or standing, Telecare offered the highly experienced registered nurse a job at its Shelton, Washington facility, contingent on successful completion of a pre-employment medical examination. Telecare’s contract medical examiner and the applicant’s primary doctor both deemed the applicant medically qualified for the position.

In addition, the applicant explained that he could accomplish the work as long as he could periodically use a chair. The EEOC’s investigation also found that Telecare nurses had flexibility to sit or stand during their shifts. However, despite both medical certifications and the applicant’s assurances, Telecare withdrew its job offer and refused to hire the applicant.

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from refusing to hire qualified applicants and employees due to an actual or perceived disability. The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (EEOC v. Telecare Mental Health Services of Washington, Inc., Case No. 2:21-cv-01339) on Sept. 30 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through conciliation. The EEOC’s lawsuit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief designed to prevent such discrimination in the future.

“The ADA prohibits employers from rejecting applicants because of a perceived medical condition or disability that in no way impacts their performance,” said Nancy Sienko, acting district director for the EEOC’s San Francisco District, which includes Washington State. “Eliminating barriers in hiring, especially hiring practices that discriminate against people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the Commission’s 2017-21 Strategic Enforcement Plan.”

EEOC Senior Trial Attorney May Che explained, “The Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted to protect people with disabilities from discrimination based on unfounded prejudices and stereotypes. Telecare officials discriminated when they substituted their assumptions about this applicant’s abilities for sound medical conclusions, and closed the door on a highly capable nurse who could have been a valuable and loyal employee.”

According to its website, Telecare Mental Health Services of Washington, Inc. is an affiliate of Telecare Corporation, an Alameda, California-based health care organization with 132 programs across five states, providing acute, crisis, residential, and longer-term recovery programs for people with serious mental illnesses.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.

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