Casino Fired Employee for Asking for Medical Leave for Cancer Treatment, Federal Agency Charged

CHICAGO – Midwest Gaming, LLC (operating as Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Ill.) will pay $60,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Rivers Casino wrongfully denied Donnan Lake’s request for a reasonable accommodation of a few additional weeks of leave to have surgery for treatment of sarcoma, a type of cancer he had fought since childhood. Instead of providing the additional time, Rivers fired Lake as a slot technician.

Rivers Casino sought to dismiss this case under Severson v. Heartland Woodcraft, Inc., 872 F.3d 476 (7th Cir. 2017), arguing that the company had no obligation to accommodate Lake’s leave request under the ADA. The district court disagreed, ruling on May 25, 2018 that the EEOC “may be able to establish that granting Lake a short period of additional leave was a reasonable accommodation in this particular case.”

Chief Judge Ruben Castillo entered the consent decree resolving this case on Feb. 25. The two-year decree enjoins Rivers Casino from discriminating against employees on the basis of disability in the future. The prohibited practices include failing to provide reasonable accommodations for disability-related absences and terminating employees on the basis of disability. Under the decree, Rivers Casino will provide training on the ADA’s requirements to provide reasonable accommodations for employees, post a notice to employees about the terms of the consent decree, and report semi-annually to the EEOC on how the company has addressed requests for accommodation. The decree also provides for payment of $60,000 to the estate of Lake, who passed away during the pendency of the litigation. This case was litigated by Richard Mrizek and Ann Henry of the Chicago District Office.

“This case is an important reminder that the ADA’s obligation to provide reasonable accommodations applies to employees seeking additional leave — even after the Seventh Circuit’s decision in Severson,” said EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney Gregory Gochanour. “Further, employers cannot assume that denials of requests for additional leave are safe from scrutiny under the ADA.”

EEOC District Director Julianne Bowman added, “This consent decree reaffirms the EEOC’s position that granting additional leave can be a reasonable accommodation – and employers need to carefully evaluate each accommodation request in that light.”

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available on its website at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.