EEOC files race discrimination suit against home health agency

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A home health agency accused of reassigning Black and Hispanic employees to placate patients is under fire from federal regulators.

On Monday, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit against Brooklyn, New York-based Four Seasons Licensed Home Health Care Agency on charges it engaged in discriminatory practices by factoring in patient preferences against non-white home health aides when making assignments.

The EEOC claims that these actions constitute discrimination under the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Four Seasons, which provides in-home caregiving, legal aid and private duty nursing services, is a unit of Four Seasons Healthcare Solutions, which operates nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities, dialysis centers and pharmacies in New York.

“Making work assignment decisions based on an employee’s race or national origin is against the law, including when these decisions are grounded in preferences of the employer’s clients,” Jeffrey Burstein, regional attorney for the EEOC New York District Office, said in a news release.

Four Seasons did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The EEOC seeks compensatory and punitive damages for affected employees and demands changes to the company’s policies to prevent future discrimination. The agency said efforts to settle out of court were not fruitful.

The booming home health industry is staffed disproportionately by Black and Hispanic women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. If the EEOC case succeeds, it would signal to other providers that allowing patients to reject care from workers based on their races or ethnicities may be found to violate civil rights statutes.

Under federal law, employers cannot discriminate based on race or color in any aspect of employment, including hiring, termination decisions, pay, benefits, job assignments and promotions. Federal policy also explicitly states that race should not influence the amount or quality of work an individual is designated to perform.

“It is long past the day when employers comply with the discriminatory requests of its clients or customers, to the detriment of its Black and Hispanic workers,” Timothy Riera, acting director of the EEOC New York District Office, said in the news release.

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