Banner Health Settles EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit for $255,000

PHOENIX -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that it has settled a disability discrimination lawsuit against Banner Health, headquartered in Phoenix. The EEOC had charged the company with breaching a mediation agreement it entered into, and firing and failing to accommodate an employee because he had a disability. Banner Health operates in Colorado, Nebraska, Arizona, California, Nevada, Wyoming, and Alaska. It is one of the largest non-profit health care systems in the country.

According to the EEOC’s suit, EEOC v. Banner Health, CV-10-01432-SRB, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Phoenix, Banner Health (formerly called Banner Mesa Lutheran) hired Lee Fladmo in 1984 as a kitchen worker/dietary aide. Fladmo has an intellectual disability; however, he could perform his job if he received supervision sensitive to his needs. During the course of his employment at Banner, Fladmo had made numerous requests for reasonable accommodation which were ignored.

In 2002, following a charge of discrimination filed with the EEOC, Banner entered into a mediated settlement in which it promised that it would not take any actions with respect to Fladmo’s employment without addressing them to his brother, who had his power of attorney. Some three years later, Fladmo made another request for an accommodation, which Banner refused to offer and did not discuss with his brother, breaching the mediation agreement, and ultimately fired him.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities, and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to enable their employees to work, absent undue hardship

In addition to the settlement requiring Banner to pay $255,000 to the Lee Fladmo Special Needs Trust, the company also must provide training at the Banner Gateway site for its managerial and supervisory employees on disability discrimination, develop policies prohibiting disability discrimination, if necessary, and post a notice that disability discrimination is unlawful and will not be tolerated.

“Many disabled persons are qualified, ready and willing to work -- all they need is an equal opportunity,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez. “This case demonstrates that when employees, in particular one with an intellectual disability, are prevented from working because of an unlawful reason, they will be protected under the law.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill said, “People with disabilities are an untapped resource that employers should utilize. Here, at the very least, a job coach would have assisted Mr. Fradmo without cost to Banner.”

Rayford O. Irvin, district director of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, added, “We will continue to vigorously pursue our mission of fighting employment discrimination on all fronts. We encourage employers and employees to sit down together and cooperate to find an accommodation that works for all parties involved, regardless of the disability.”

The EEOC’s Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque).

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.

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