Nonprofit and Former Case Manager Settle Discrimination Suit Over Remote Work Request

The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants Inc. and a former case manager have advised a Florida federal court that they have settled their pending court case. Kristina Collado-Fernandez had accused the nonprofit organization of discrimination and retaliation after she asked to work from home during the COVID-19 pandemic to care for her autistic son. The parties expect to file a formal settlement and request dismissal within the next two weeks. 

The nonprofit organization, which assists with refugee resettlement and advocacy, had a policy that allowed employees to work from home two days per week. Collado-Fernandez asked to work from home three days per week as a “reasonable accommodation” under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) at the beginning of the pandemic. Her employer turned down her request without explanation, even when she disclosed her child’s health condition. 

Following the refusal of her request, a supervisor requested more information about her family life and her need for accommodation. In response, Collado-Fernandez filed a grievance against the company, and the company fired her without offering any nonretaliatory reasons. These circumstances led to Collado-Fernandez filing suit against her former employer alleging discrimination in Collado-Fernandez v. U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants Inc., case number 9:22-cv-80011, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.

The nonprofit claimed that Collado-Fernandez did not ask for a reasonable accommodation under the ADA, nor would she have been entitled to a reasonable accommodation since she did not have a protected disability or medical condition. Furthermore, even if she had a valid request for a reasonable accommodation, granting the request would have been an undue burden on the employer because the agency is required by law to have a certain number of case managers assigned to each unaccompanied minor child. 

The agency claimed that they intended to terminate Collado-Fernandez before she requested to work three days per week from home. They claim they based her termination on her frequent violations of company policies, such as leaving information out of case files, failing to ensure that phone calls between children and their family members occurred, and delaying the release of children to their parents or other family members. 

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