The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against the Tulare-based Magnolia Health Corporation and its six affiliates on Wednesday for alleged systematic discrimination against job applicants and employees with disabilities.
Magnolia Health and its affiliates run six health care and assisted living facilities throughout the Valley. Its affiliates include Twin Oaks Assisted Living Center and Twin Oaks Rehabilitation & Nursing Center in Tulare, Kaweah Manor in Visalia, Merritt Manor in Tulare, Porterville Convalescent and Browning Manor in Delano, according to the filed complaint.
EEOC contends that since 2012, Magnolia Health has denied hires based on disability, has not provided accommodation for those with disabilities, and has fired those who were regarded as disabled or had a record of a disability.
Some who were offered jobs under the condition that they pass a medical exam had the offer revoked when the company learned of current medical restrictions or prior medical conditions, the EEOC alleged.
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It’s just important that companies recognize their responsibility to accommodate individuals with disabilities.
Melissa Barrios, EEOC’s Fresno director
“Requiring individuals to be free from any need for accommodation is a trend that the EEOC is seeing in our region,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC’s Los Angeles District, in a released statement. “Disability discrimination remains a persistent problem that needs more attention by employers.”
Magnolia Health’s chief executive officer said the company had not yet seen the allegations, but added it would investigate and he was confident it would be exonerated.
Magnolia Health was brought to the EEOC’s attention when Erin Barnett and Mitchell Miller filed charges of discrimination with the agency, according to the filed complaint.
Miller was hired as a cook for Kaweah Manor in May 2012, and worked several days before he was sent to a post-offer physical examination at Visalia Industrial Medicine. Visalia Industrial placed several physical restrictions on Miller, such as lifting no more than 50 pounds and no repetitive bending, and Magnolia Health revoked its offer of employment based upon these restrictions, the complaint alleges.
Barnett was hired as a medical nurse/charge nurse with Merritt Manor in July 2012. She too was sent for a post-offer physical examination at Visalia Industrial, and was given restrictions such as not lifting more than 25 pounds and no repetitive bending. Upon learning of these restrictions, Magnolia Health discharged Barnett from service.
Disability discrimination remains a persistent problem that needs more attention by employers.
Anna Park, regional attorney for EEOC
Both were individuals otherwise qualified for their jobs as they had held similar positions before with other employers, according to the complaint. Both filed complaints separately with the agency, said EEOC’s Fresno director Melissa Barrios. Miller filed his in August 2012 and Barnett filed hers a month later.
After investigating Magnolia Health and finding that its practices violated the Americans with Disabilities Act, EEOC reached out to try to effect voluntary change in the company, Barrios said.
The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court’s Eastern District after administrative attempts to correct Magnolia Health’s employment practices and ensure voluntary compliance with ADA failed. The EEOC seeks an unspecified amount of back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief to prevent disability discrimination.
“It’s just important that companies recognize their responsibility to accommodate individuals with disabilities,” Barrios said.
As the parents of a disabled child, my wife and I are sickened to read EEOC’s inflammatory characterization.
Kenny Moyle, Magnolia Health CEO
Magnolia Health CEO Kenny Moyle said in an emailed statement that the company had not been provided with a copy of the EEOC’s allegations, but he added he was confident it would be exonerated once it had a chance to investigate and respond.
His company and its facilities “strongly support the ability to work for those with disabilities” and any employment decisions were made “with the interests of our residents and their safety at heart.”
“As the parents of a disabled child, my wife and I are sickened to read EEOC’s inflammatory characterization,” he said.
Sarah Anderson: (559) 441-6248; @Sarahsonofander