Fort Worth clinic settles EEOC case with applicant who could not give urine sample

06/30/2014 5:37 PM

06/30/2014 5:39 PM

A local rehabilitation clinic has agreed to pay $30,000 to a job applicant who was not hired after she could not produce a urine sample for a routine drug test because of kidney failure.

The settlement between the Fort Worth Center of Rehabilitation, operated by Skilled Healthcare Group of Foothill Ranch in Orange County, Calif., and Patsy Roberson was reached June 26, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission confirmed Monday. Roberson had wanted to be a certified nursing assistant at the clinic.

As part of the deal, the clinic is required to train its employees on the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Meaghan Shepard, the EEOC trial lawyer in the case. In particular, “alternate forms of drug testing must be made available to applicants and employees who are unable to provide urine samples because of a disability,” Shepard said.

Roberson had requested reasonable accommodation because of her medical condition but was denied, the EEOC asserted.

Melody Chatelle, a spokeswoman for the clinic’s owner, said: “The facility disagreed with the EEOC’s allegations in the matter and was prepared to vigorously defend against them. However, to avoid the costs of litigation against the government, the facility agreed to settle the matter. The settlement did not include any admission of fault or liability on the part of the facility.”

Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Dallas District Office, said one of the agency’s priorities is “to make sure that the door of opportunity is open at the point of hire.”

“It is ultimately better for employers and applicants if the selection process does not rule out qualified people with physical impairments simply because of testing techniques that create artificial barriers to an otherwise positive pairing of a worker and a workplace,” he said.

The 59-year-old single mother was led to believe she had gotten the job and just needed to complete some paperwork and get a drug test, Shepard said last year. But when Roberson said that she could not give a urine sample because of renal failure, the atmosphere immediately changed, the EEOC lawyer said. After being strung along for weeks, Roberson was told she would not be hired.

The settlement, a fraction of what Roberson was seeking, was described by Shepard as a compromise. Roberson has been employed elsewhere as a nurse for an in-home health agency, she added.

The clinic at 850 12th Ave. in Fort Worth’s Hospital District, offers inpatient treatment for people dealing with amputations, joint replacements, post-surgical complications, lung and heart conditions, and uncontrolled diabetes. It also works with people dealing with strokes and multiple sclerosis. according to the for-profit clinic’s website.

In February 2013, Skilled Healthcare reached a settlement with California’s attorney general over allegations of neglect and abuse at its 20 nursing homes in the state, Bloomberg News reported. The company agreed to pay $350,000 for two years of surprise inspections.

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