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Government sues Towson home care franchise alleging ADA violation

A federal agency is suing a Towson home-care franchise, saying it violated a woman’s civil rights when it terminated a job offer after her tuberculosis test came back positive.

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s lawsuit alleges Towson-based Home Instead Senior Care violated the Americans with Disabilities Act when it rescinded the job applicant’s offer in March.

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“The effect … has been to deprive [the job applicant], who was at all times qualified, of equal employment opportunities,” the agency wrote in the lawsuit.

According to the lawsuit, Home Instead Senior Care offered the woman a job as a home caregiver, contingent on the results of a background check and drug screening. She was also required to take a purified protein derivative (PPD) skin test for TB.

The woman’s test came back positive, according to the lawsuit.

The applicant could not be reached for comment.

A positive TB test only indicates that a person has been infected with the bacteria, not that he or she is currently sick with the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with latent TB are not contagious, but can get treatment to prevent the bacteria from becoming active.

The hearing on the Towson Station development, previously known as Towson Gateway, will start at 7 p.m. next Thursday.

Maryland follows the CDC’s guidelines for preventing the spread of TB in health care settings, said Maryland Department of Health spokeswoman Brittany Fowler.

“TB infection is not transmitted from person to person and the employee may continue to work,” Fowler said. “The TB infection should be treated to prevent active TB disease from developing.”

Maryland has seen an average of 11 cases of TB in health care workers each year over the past five years, Fowler said; that represents about 6 percent of all TB cases in that same time period.

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Following the positive results, Home Instead Senior Care asked the job applicant to get a chest X-ray, which determined that her infection was latent, according to the lawsuit, but on March 9 the company told the woman she no longer had the job.

“Due to the positive results we will have to rescind our conditional offer of employment,” a company human resources coordinator wrote in an email quoted in the lawsuit. “I apologize for taking so long to get back to you, but I did want to confirm it all with our Office Manager and Owner first, as I was not sure what the difference was with the latent results. They have confirmed with me today though that any positive results are not accepted whether latent or otherwise.”

The EEOC said that the positive TB test constituted a “perceived disability,” and that discriminating against her because of it is unlawful.

“She was well-qualified for the position but [Home Instead Senior Care] rescinded the job offer even though she was not a health risk,” EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence said in a press release. “That’s a violation of the ADA and that’s why we filed this lawsuit.”

Lawrence declined to discuss the case further over the phone, saying she does not comment on active litigation.

According to the lawsuit, the EEOC is asking the court to, among other things, force the company to institute equal employment programs. The government is also demanding the company provide back pay for the woman whose offer was rescinded, and pay punitive damages and compensation for “emotional pain.”

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Home Instead Senior Care representatives did not return requests for comment.

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