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EEOC Sues Medical Transport Companies for Religious and Disability Discrimination

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed suit against Global Medical Response, Inc. (GMR) and American Medical Response, Inc. (AMR), asserting they have violated federal anti-discrimination laws. The EEOC alleges GMR and AMR discriminated against a nationwide class of applicants and employees by prohibiting them from wearing beards even when their sincerely-held religious beliefs and disabilities required them to do so. The class of individuals reflects a range of religious beliefs, including Orthodox Judaism, Sikhism, and others.

GMR and AMR have a "no facial hair" policy for Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) and paramedics because they need to wear respirators while working. The companies assert these respirators will not fit properly if the individuals have facial hair. Since December 2018, the EEOC alleges GMR and AMR denied accommodations to applicants and employees who requested them due to medical conditions or religious beliefs. To keep their jobs, the company required these first responders to shave their facial hair in violation of their beliefs or doctor's orders. Several individuals proposed an alternate respirator that would fit over their facial hair, but the companies refused those proposals. The individuals who refused to shave their facial hair or complained were allegedly fired by GMR and AMR.

The EEOC asserts this conduct violated the Americans with Disabilities Act and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, both of which require accommodation of disabilities and religious beliefs. The EEOC contends GMR and AMR's policies do not allow for any exceptions for disabilities or religious beliefs and thus violate federal law. GMR and AMR operate "one of the largest medical transport companies in the country." The EEOC asserts in its complaint that GMR and AMR could have allowed the other type of respirator to be worn safely by people with facial hair. The companies told press outlets that they do not comment on pending litigation.