EEOC Battles University of Chicago Medical Center

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The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has pledged to crack down on what it calls “systemic discrimination practices,” and one prominent Chicago hospital is experiencing this promise firsthand. In May the EEOC filed charges against the University of Chicago Medical Center for alleged wrongful terminations. The EEOC claims that the University’s Medical Center implemented a blanket policy of terminating employees as soon as their leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act expired.

Under the FMLA eligible employees may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to obtain treatment for his or her “serious health condition.” While the employer is only required to grant the employee 12 weeks of unpaid leave, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires that an employer provide “reasonable accommodations” to employees with medical disabilities as long as it does not cause an undue business hardship. The EEOC’s position is that the University’s blanket policy to immediately terminate an employee fails to consider whether the employer could reasonably accommodate the employee without suffering a business hardship.

The University of Chicago is not the only Chicago mainstay to receive attention from the EEOC. Recently the EEOC settled its litigation with Sears and Jewel-Osco, and is currently in the midst of litigation with UPS, alleging each company had a similar policy of blanket termination after the expiration of the required 12 week leave. Sears settled for $6.2 million and Jewel-Osco settled for $3.2 million.

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