New Mexico Orthopedics Associates, P.C. (NMOA), which owns and operates a medical facility in Albuquerque, will pay $165,000 to settle a lawsuit for associational disability discrimination filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
According to EEOC's suit, NMOA violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by firing Melissa Yalch Valencia, a temporary staffing agency employee, and failing to hire her for a full-time position because of her relationship with her then three-year old daughter, who had disabilities or was regarded as disabled.
In addition to requiring NMOA to pay monetary damages to Valencia and provide her a letter of reference, the consent decree settling the suit requires NMOA to conduct annual anti-discrimination training for its employees, managers, supervisors, and human resources employees. NMOA will also develop and implement a management evaluation and compensation system which takes into account compliance with equal employment opportunity laws, policies and laws prohibiting retaliation, and this decree. NMOA will also adopt and distribute its anti-discrimination policies and report to EEOC if there are any complaints of disability discrimination. The court approved the settlement and will retain jurisdiction for purposes of compliance for two years.
Discrimination victim Melissa Yalch Valencia said, "It should never have happened. A mother should never have to worry about losing her job because her child has a disability. I hope the lawsuit encourages moms and dads to stand up fearlessly when things like this happen. I also hope this lawsuit and this resolution encourages companies to train supervisors and employees to assure things like this don't happen in the workplace."
Employers MUST remember that the ADA specifically prohibits discrimination against mothers, fathers, caregivers, family members or others who are associated with persons with disabilities.
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