A home health care provider was sued in federal court Monday after it allegedly fired a Mankato-area employee who was seen walking with a cane.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed a lawsuit accusing Baywood Home Care of discriminating against Laurie Goodnough, who has fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. 

John Rowe, the EEOC’s Chicago district director, said that in early November 2011, two other Baywood employees allegedly saw Goodnough walking with a cane and complained to Baywood Home Care’s owner. Those complaints led directly to Goodnough’s termination on Nov. 9, Rowe said.

“There does not seem to have been any interactive process here for the employer and employee to assess whether Goodnough’s use of a cane interfered with her ability to perform her job, or to consider some other reasonable accommodation for her disability,” Rowe said in a statement.  “Instead, it was simply ‘out the door.’”

Dorothy Muffett, Baywood’s owner and founder, said Monday she was not aware of the lawsuit and would not comment on Goodnough’s allegations.

Andy Tanick, an attorney for Baywood, said the company "does not discriminate on the basis of disability or any other legally-protected characteristic, and did not do so with regard to Ms. Goodnough. We are confident that the court will agree."

That lawsuit claims Baywood violated Goodnough’s civil rights because it did not offer a reasonable accommodation for her disability. In addition to the discrimination against Goodnough, the lawsuit also claimed Baywood engaged in another form of discrimination by asking job applicants if they have a disability and what was the severity of their disability.

According to a Star Tribune article published last year, Baywood Home Care offers hourly assistance, 24-hour live-in care and overnight care. It places home health aides in the Twin Cities metro area, south-central and southwestern Minnesota. The company has 150 employees, including nurses who provide case oversight.

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