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The $2 million lesson in a disability discrimination lawsuit

There are seniors housing, independent living and assisted living facilities scattered around the Milwaukee area and across Wisconsin. According to a retirement care industry publication, each and every one of those facilities should heed the warning implicit in a recent $2 million settlement of a disability discrimination lawsuit agreed to by Prestige Senior Living.

"The case offers lessons for all senior living and skilled nursing operators," McKnight's Senior Living magazine says.

According to the lawsuit, Prestige Senior Living had policies and procedures that were in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The company required workers to perform all job duties at all times - no restrictions and no accommodations were granted. According to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Prestige's "inflexible leave policies" resulted in the firing of workers with disabilities.

An EEOC spokesperson told McKnight's Senior Living that after an illness or injury, Prestige workers "had to be 100 percent healed, 100 percent fit for duty, or they wouldn't be allowed to return to" their jobs.

One Prestige worker had a knee injury that required her to take leave. But complications from the injury required an additional four to six weeks to heal, her doctor said. Because the employee had used up her leave, Prestige decided against work restrictions or accommodations and fired her.

The EEOC spokesperson pointed out that many employers believe that all they need to do is grant leave and that afterwards, they are free to do as they like. "But under the ADA, there are some additional obligations that employers have to address," the spokesperson said.

Employers must meet with the worker to find out if accommodations will enable him or her to return to their job. Employers should also consider granting "additional leave for that healing process -- some reasonable time for that person to be able to get back to work."

If a Milwaukee employer has violated your ADA rights, contact the employment law attorneys of Alan C. Olson and Associates to talk over your legal options.

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