EEOC sues center for alleged discrimination

Sue Guinn Legg • May 17, 2012 at 10:03 PM

The federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against Christian Care Center of Johnson City and Care Centers Management Consulting for allegedly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by firing a licensed practical nurse because the nurse was infected with the human immunodeficiency virus.

The lawsuit was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Greeneville and seeks a court order to require the nursing home to correct employment practices that violate ADA mandates against discrimination against people with disabilities, back pay and other compensation to the nurse, who is identified in lawsuit only as “John/Jane Doe.”

According to the suit, the nurse was employed at the nursing home for more than a month in the fall of 2009 and was never reprimanded in relation to job performance.

The suit states the nurse confided personal concerns about missing work from time to time because of the HIV infection to several co-workers, and on Oct. 22, 2009, Christian Care administrator Chuck Arnold learned the nurse was HIV positive from a co-worker.

The following day, the nurse was asked report to work one hour early, at which time the nurse was called into a meeting with Arnold and Director of Nursing Amanda Dexter. Arnold questioned the nurse about the nurse’s HIV status and the nurse confirmed the condition.

“Arnold then discharged the (nurse) because Arnold did not believe the (nurse) could preform the essential function of administering medications because of the disability, HIV positive,” the lawsuit states.

The suit alleges the nurse was able to perform the job’s essential functions and Christian Care’s actions deprived the nurse of equal employment opportunities because of a disability. The suit also alleges the nursing home’s actions were intentional and were done with malice or reckless indifference to the nurse’s federally protected employment rights.

The suit requests a permanent injunction to prevent Christian Care from engaging in employment practices that violate the ADA rules and to require the nursing home to provide equal employment opportunities to people with disabilities.

The suit also seeks a court order to require Christian Care to pay the nurse back pay with interest, reinstatement and/or front pay and compensation for past and future losses, including relocation, job search and medical expenses not covered by an employee insurance plan, and for emotional distress, pain and suffering, embarrassment, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life and humiliation caused by its actions.

The EEOC announced the lawsuit’s filing to the media Thursday with a news release that said the commission brought the legal action after its attempt to negotiate a settlement of the alleged ADA violation was unsuccessful.

When asked for a response to the allegations by the Johnson City Press on Thursday, Arnold provided a written statement in which he said, “This is an employment matter that involves confidential personnel information. It wouldn’t be appropriate for us to discuss specific employment issues. This matter is in litigation and we cannot discuss it.”

Arnold also stated, “We remain firmly committed to maintaining the health and safety of our residents. That always has been and is our single-highest priority. We continue our operations as normal.”

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