Tulare County nursing home operator accused of discriminating against disabled employees

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- The Federal Government alleges Magnolia Health discriminated against employees at its 6 facilities in Tulare, Visalia and Porterville. The lawsuit filed in Federal District Court in Fresno accuses the company of hiring the workers, from cooks to nurses, then later submitting them to physical exams, and deciding they were disabled based on past injuries or issues detected in those exams and firing them.

Melissa Barrios, Director of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission office in Fresno says in most cases, the supposed disabilities did not affect the employee performance.

Barrios said, "At all times during their application process they were certainly able to perform the duties that were requested of them, in fact they had performed their duties for other companies in the past and went on to secure jobs in the same field."

Barrios maintains the law requires employers to discuss the disability with the workers and make a good faith attempt to accommodate employees with disabilities.

"They are obliged by the law to engage in that interactive process to see if there's a possibility for that person to maintain that job," Barrios said.

The lawsuit maintains the company simply chose to fire them instead. We visited the Magnolia Health Corporations offices in Tulare, and later their CEO Kennset Moyle issued a statement. In it he said: "Magnolia Health Corporation and the facilities it operates strongly support the ability to work for those with disabilities. We have not been provided a copy of those allegations made by the EEOC however are confident once we have them and are given an opportunity to investigate and respond, we will be fully exonerated. Any employment decisions which may have been made affecting certain individuals were made with the interests of our residents and their safety at heart. As the parents of a disabled child, my wife and I are sickened to read EEOC's inflammatory characterization of "systemic discrimination of applicants and employees due to their perceived or actual disabilities."

The lawsuit seeks unspecified monetary damages for the employees, claiming they suffered emotional pain and suffering and humiliation.

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