On February 11, 2020, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (“EEOC”) sued Yale New Haven Hospital, Inc., the teaching hospital of Yale School of Medicine. The EEOC alleges that Yale New Haven’s Late Career Practitioner Policy violates the American with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and Age Discrimination in Employment Act (“ADEA”).
According to the EEOC’s Complaint, in 2016, Yale New Haven implemented its Policy requiring providers applying for or renewing medical staff privileges to undergo an ophthalmologic exam and neuropsychological screening only if the provider is at least seventy years old. The Policy applies to dentists, podiatrists, and other providers who require medical staff privileges to work at Yale New Haven. Importantly, the Policy applied to providers based on age alone and without particularized suspicion that the provider’s neuropsychological and eyesight declined. According to the EEOC, the Policy applied to 145 individuals and 22 individuals had test results of “borderline deficient,” “deficient,” or “failed.” Five providers refused to undergo testing, resigned, or changed their employment status.
The ADA prohibits employers from requiring a medical examination or inquiring as to whether the employee has a disability or the nature of a disability unless the examination or inquiry is job-related or meets a business necessity. The ADA also prohibits employers from interfering with an individual’s exercise or enjoyment of ADA rights. The EEOC alleges that ophthalmologic exams and neuropsychological screenings required by Yale New Haven’s Policy constitute impermissible medical examinations under the ADA.
The ADEA prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee because of an employee’s age, including hiring, firing, or applying a classification to the employee. The purpose of the ADEA is “to promote employment of older persons based on their ability rather than age; to prohibit arbitrary age discrimination in employment …” The EEOC contends that subjecting providers aged seventy or older to the Policy violates the ADEA. The EEOC seeks punitive damages, injunctive relief, compensation for past and future nonpecuniary losses, back pay, and other damages.
This case demonstrates how certain employment-related policies, even made in good faith, can potentially violate numerous employment laws, as echoed by Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District Office. “While Yale New Haven Hospital may claim its policy is well-intentioned, it violates anti-discrimination laws.” Polices predicated on age, gender, religion, or other protected characteristics should be carefully reviewed by an attorney. Similarly, an attorney should review policies that single-out groups of employees or do not apply to every employee equally.
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