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The EEOC has filed suit in federal court against a home healthcare provider, alleging it unlawfully discriminated against employees by changing their work assignments to accommodate client preferences. The lawsuit1 alleges that ACARE HHC Inc. removed Black and Hispanic workers from home health aide jobs based on their race and national origin. According to the complaint, these aides were either reassigned or terminated entirely, violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

ACARE HHC Inc., which does business as Four Seasons Licensed Home Health Care Agency (Four Seasons), provides in-home caregiving, legal aid, and private duty nursing services in New York. As a result of this lawsuit, the EEOC is seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages, and injunctive relief.

If successful, this case would send a message to other home healthcare providers that allowing patients to reject care from workers based on their race or ethnicity may be found to violate civil rights statutes.

Home healthcare agencies are facing increased enforcement from the EEOC for alleged racial discrimination in their facilities. In another recent case, Elderwood of Burlington, a Vermont-based home healthcare provider, had its motion to dismiss a complaint denied. The complaint alleged that the company failed to address instances of physical assaults and racial slurs directed at Black staff members by residents. Judge Christina Reiss of the US District Court for the District of Vermont ruled that the facility can be held liable under Title VII for creating a hostile work environment if it is shown it did not take steps to remediate resident behavior.

Key Takeaways for Healthcare Providers

Employers are prohibited by federal law from discriminating against individuals based on their race or ethnicity in any aspect of employment. This includes hiring, termination decisions, pay, benefits, job assignments, and promotions. Moreover, it is explicitly stated in federal policy that an individual's race should not affect the amount or quality of work they are assigned to perform.

Healthcare providers must be careful when accommodating patient preferences to ensure they don’t violate state and federal anti-discrimination laws. Acceding to racial preferences, even upon patients’ requests, for home health aide assignments can expose employers to litigation.

Buchanan’s team of labor and employment attorneys stands ready to offer assistance with all employment policy-related issues that may arise at your workplace.

  1. EEOC v. ACARE HHC d/b/a Four Seasons Licensed Home Health Care, 23-cv-5760 (E.D.N.Y. July 31, 2023)