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EEOC settles suit over illegal firing with Regional Mental Health

Updated: April 3, 2013 6:08AM



Regional Mental Health Center will pay $200,000 and train employees in disability accommodation as part of a settlement with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

The nonprofit group, which serves Lake County, is not admitting wrongdoing in the case, however.

The EEOC sued Regional Mental Health Center in 2010, claiming the organization illegally fired an employee, Felicia Nichols, after she asked in April 2009 to take time off for breast cancer treatments.

The agency denied the time off and then fired her after she went to the treatments.

“An employer cannot simply ignore requests for reasonable accommodation and then fire a disabled worker, telling her to reapply for employment when her condition improves,” Laurie A. Young, regional attorney for the EEOC, said at the time the lawsuit was filed.

According to the settlement agreement, filed Friday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond, Regional Mental Health Center will pay $100,000 to Nichols for back pay and compensatory damages. The agency must also pay another $100,000 to her law firm, Asher, Gittler and D’Alba Ltd.

Regional Mental Health Center employees must also go through a two-hour training session in disability accommodation within six months of the settlement being entered. They have to follow up with additional annual training sessions and also have to file yearly reports with the EEOC that include all requests by employees for an accommodation of leave under the Americans With Disabilities Act and how the agency handled each request.

A judge must still approve the settlement, which will remain in force for five years.



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