Professional Service Agreement

Blood Bank of Hawaii Charged with Maintaining Unlawful Maximum Leave Policy

September 12, 2017

According to a lawsuit recently filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the Blood Bank of Hawaii refused to provide reasonable accommodations for—and then fired—employees who required additional leave time for their disabilities.

The EEOC contends that Blood Bank of Hawaii maintained a rigid maximum leave policy under which employees with disabilities were not granted a leave of absence as a reasonable accommodation beyond the required 12 weeks under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and were required to return to work without limitations at the end of that leave. As a result of its leave policy and requirement to return to work without limitations, Blood Bank of Hawaii terminated employees who exhausted leave or failed to return to work without restrictions, the EEOC alleges.

The EEOC's suit seeks back pay and benefits, along with compensatory and punitive damages for the employee and a class of aggrieved individuals, plus injunctive relief intended to prevent any future discrimination in the workplace.

Anna Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles District, which includes Hawaii in its jurisdiction, stressed that "Employees should never be terminated or forced to resign simply because they need additional leave for their disabilities."

The EEOC filed its suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Hawaii (case number 1:17-cv-00444) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Addressing disability discrimination in the form of inflexible leave policies that discriminate against individuals with disabilities is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan.