The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against healthcare and assisted living facility operator Magnolia Health Corporation. The suit alleges the systemic discrimination of a class of job applicants and employees due to their perceived or actual disabilities.

Back pay and compensatory and punitive damages are sought by the EEOC on behalf of the class, along with injunctive relief to prevent and address disability discrimination.

A History of Discrimination

Since 2012, a class of applicants and employees were affected by Visalia, Calif-based Magnolia Health’s practice of denying hire, accommodating people with disabilities, and ultimately firing individuals who were regarded as disabled, had a record of a disability, or had an actual disability, the EEOC contends in a recent media release.

Some class members reportedly applied for jobs and were offered positions contingent on passing a medical examination. It is alleged by the EEOC, however, that the company discharged or revoked the job offers of class members upon learning of or receiving records of prior medical conditions or current medical restrictions.

Disturbing Trend

Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District, states in the EEOC’s media release that the allegations associated with the case reflect a trend in the area.

“Requiring individuals to be free from any need for accommodation is a trend that the EEOC is seeing in our region. Disability discrimination remains a persistent problem that needs more attention by employers,” Park states in the commission’s media release.

Likewise, says Melissa Barrios, director for EEOC’s Fresno Local Office, employers must make efforts to accommodate individuals with disabilities by exploring effective ways to allow them to work provided there is no undue hardship.

“Employment decisions, such as denying hire or firing, that are made without engaging in that critical interactive process run afoul of the law,” Barrios states.

Magnolia Health’s alleged discrimination based on disability, record of disability, and perceived disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), as amended. According to the EEOC’s media release, the commission filed suit in the US District Court of the Eastern District of California against Magnolia Health and its six affiliated companies after exhausting administrative attempts to resolve the case.

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial, ethnic, and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities, is one of six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).