In a June 2007 press release, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported that in its fiscal year 2006, it had received almost 17,000 complaints of employment discrimination "on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, disability and reprisal." The law requires that employment discrimination complaints be filed with the EEOC before filing them in court. During its investigation of each complaint, the EEOC requires a response from the employer and requests copies of a wide variety of documents. This results in a substantial commitment of time and money. If court proceedings follow, the additional time and money expended can seriously detract the employer's attention from its primary mission. Thus it is prudent to establish a well-thought risk-management program to reduce the risk of employment practices litigation. A good program also boosts employee morale because it should include a process to enhance the quality of communication between management and employees.
This article describes an example of alleged discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and offers risk-management techniques. Although all the facts described are a matter of public record, changes have been made to protect the identity of the persons involved.
Case Example: Alleged Violations of the ADA
Sally was a longtime nurse practitioner for a large, rural community mental health center. She worked for the center her entire career (more than 20 years). Her performance evaluations were uniformly glowing. Her supervisors described her as a "self starter" who frequently did more than was asked of her. She was responsible for directing the center's inpatient crisis stabilization unit. Her coworkers liked and respected her, and she had formed many long friendships with …