On Nov. 11, 2018, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit against Dignity Health, alleging a violation of federal disability law. The case centers around an employee of Mercy Medical Center Redding who was allegedly fired from her job after the loss of her vision.
Alina Sorling and the EEOC were assisted in their lawsuit by the National Federation of the Blind. On Thur., Sept. 19, the EEOC announced that Dignity Health had settled the case for $570,000, an amount that will compensate Sorling for her lost wages, damages and attorney fees.
Sorling had been employed at Mercy Medical Center for 10 years as a food service technician when an illness caused her to sustain significant vision loss. She took an unpaid leave of absence from her cafeteria job to complete a rehabilitation process before attempting to return to work with accommodations, according to the EEOC.
But Dignity Health fired her instead, according to the lawsuit. Dignity, which the EEOC refers to as the 5th largest health system in the United States and largest health provider in California, cited their inability to provide a working environment that would be safe for both Sorling and others, given her new disability. According to the EEOC case, after her vision loss, Sorling was told by Dignity Health that her former job as a food service technician requires 20/40 vision, even though, according to the EEOC, she was never previously vision-tested in her 10 years of employment for Dignity Health.
Sorling’s offer to bring in a paid analyst from the California Department of Rehabilitation to work with Mercy Medical Center on providing accommodations for her disability was declined, according to an EEOC attorney.
Dignity Health, which operates under the tagline, Hello Humankindness, states on its website that dignity means “showing respect for all people by providing excellent care and helping them lead meaningful lives.”
Dignity Health issued this statement in response to the settlement: “Dignity Health values their employees and supports those with disabilities. For this particular situation, after months of time and effort, we were not able to provide an accommodation to address Ms. Sorling’s needs without compromising her safety and the safety of others. This resolution will allow Ms. Sorling to move forward with her life and we wish her the very best.”
As part of the settlement agreement, Dignity Health will enact new training for leaders and employees to help them recognize and respond appropriately to discrimination in the workplace.