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Marriott Franchisee Settles Discrimination Case Based on Breast Cancer Diagnosis

B.F. Saul Company owns and operates hotels pursuant to franchise agreements with Marriott International, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Hilton and Best Western. According to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Naila Sikandar was area sales manager for two Marriott hotels in San Diego. About six months into her employment, management learned that Ms. Sikandar had been diagnosed with breast cancer. In February, she let them know that she needed to undergo surgery for cancer and there were some accommodations that she would require after the surgery. One week before her surgery was scheduled to take place, she was fired. Ms. Sikander stated that she was told it would take her too long to get better. This statement was allegedly made even though it was not possible to predict at that point what would happen in terms of her recovery. She was escorted out of the building and instructed not to return.
The EEOC asserted that Ms. Sikandar’s termination was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). EEOC guidance on the issue of accommodating cancer states that “an employer may not automatically deny a request for leave from someone with cancer where the employee cannot specify an exact date of return; granting leave to an employee who is unable to provide a fixed date of return may be a reasonable accommodation.”
The $210,000 settlement is being paid to Ms. Sikandar’s estate as she passed away in January 2018. In addition to the monetary settlement, B.F. Saul is enjoined from violating the ADA and it must provide training to HR and management on ADA discrimination with a special emphasis on reasonable accommodation. Information will also have to be provided periodically to the EEOC on how the company is handling requests for accommodation and internal complaints of alleged disability discrimination. Moreover, B.F. Saul must post notice of the settlement at all of the 20 hotels that are covered by the two and a half year decree.