The country’s largest senior living company said it will “vigorously” defend itself against a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act during the hiring process.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in mid-2015, Brookdale Senior Living offered an applicant a full-time position as a server at its Brookdale Place at Fall Creek senior living community in Indianapolis. The job offer was contingent on the applicant, a woman, undergoing a physical exam and passing a drug screening.
The prospective employee was born with a physical impairment that “substantially affects the normal operation of her bladder and the ability to urinate,” however, according to the complaint. Due to reconstructive surgery, she reportedly could provide a urine sample only via a stoma in her abdomen, which needed to be catheterized using a quick catheter.
The EEOC claims that Brookdale subsequently “denied the applicant’s request for a reasonable accommodation, subjected her to extensive and invasive questioning about her disability and then rescinded their job offer,” considering her drug test result as a “fail” even though a urine sample had not been collected.
If the allegations are true, the EEOC said, the conduct would violate the ADA, which prohibits employers from rejecting qualified applicants due to disabilities and requires employers to consider reasonable accommodations for applicants with disabilities.
“The EEOC will not turn a blind eye to an employer who chooses not to engage in the interactive process and instead rescinds a job offer to a qualified applicant with a disability,” said Kenneth L. Bird, a regional attorney in the EEOC’s Indianapolis District Office.
The federal agency, which said it took legal action after trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement with Brookdale, is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and a permanent injunction that would prevent Brookdale from discriminating against those with disabilities during the hiring process in the future.
Brookdale told McKnight’s Senior Living that it disputes the claims in the lawsuit.
“Brookdale is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate in employment opportunities based on an individual’s protected category, including disability. It’s important that you know we strive to make reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with known disabilities,” the company said in a statement. “We are committed to providing an inclusive environment for all applicants and associates, and we intend to defend these allegations vigorously.”
The senior living community where the discrimination allegedly took place is now operated by another company.