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Dependable Health Services, a provider of contract workers to U.S. military facilities, will pay $40,000 as part of a settlement in a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, the agency announced Monday. The San Antonio-based company denied it discriminated against the former employee, but said the resolution of the case will allow it to move forward.
The EEOC claimed the company fired an employee at its corporate office when she returned to work after being hospitalized for stroke-like symptoms because management officials believed she had suffered a stroke. The employee had been cleared to return to work by her doctor with a temporary two-week restriction on work hours, according to the EEOC, but was still experiencing temporary facial paralysis likely caused by Bell's palsy when she was terminated by the company.
The settlement resolves allegations in the lawsuit including the claim of discrimination against the employee, said James Kizziar, a partner in the San Antonio and Washington offices of Bracewell & Guiliani, who represents Dependable. The company also denies that it discriminated against the former employee in any manner, and there was no court decision that the company violated the law, Kizziar said. Dependable went forward with the settlement to avoid the time, expense and distraction of a trial.
"The resolution of this case will enable Dependable to focus on what it does best, providing service under its government contracts and providing professional opportunities to employees," he said. The company "will and continues to be an equal opportunity employer and values the contributions made by all employees, including individuals with disabilities."
The settlement includes the payment of $40,000 as well as a provision for two hours of training to all managers and supervisors in the company’s corporate office on the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, according to the EEOC.
“In this case an employee suffered financially because an employer misjudged her condition and her ability to work,” said EEOC Trial Attorney David Rivela of the agency’s San Antonio Field Office. “The ADA requires that all employees be given equal opportunity to do their jobs regardless of an actual or perceived disability, and employers should not make decisions based on perceptions about someone’s supposed impairment.”