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Dignity Health Agrees to Pay $570,000 for Firing a Blind Food Service Worker

REDDING, Calif., September 27, 2019 — TRE Legal Practice and LaBarre Law Offices, on behalf of Alina Sorling, are pleased to join with the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in announcing that Dignity Health, which operates Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California, has agreed to pay $570,000 to Ms. Sorling for her lost wages, compensatory damages, and attorneys’ fees. Dignity Health has also agreed to change its policies and procedures and to provide additional anti-discrimination training to its leadership and employees.

“I am hopeful this settlement will help to make the medical center more open to workers with vision loss and other disabilities,” said Ms. Sorling in response to the agreement. “I am thankful to the EEOC and my attorneys for standing by me and seeing this through.”

In 2014, Ms. Sorling, a veteran food service technician with over a decade of experience at Dignity Health’s hospital cafeteria, suddenly became blind. Ms. Sorling went on medical leave and successfully worked with the California Department of Rehabilitation to re-master everyday tasks, including using nonvisual techniques for cooking and proficiency with knives and hot grills. But despite her new training that made it possible for her to safely work in a commercial kitchen — a job that she had previously held for over a decade — Dignity Health chose to fire her instead of allowing her to return.

After Ms. Sorling asked the National Federation of the Blind for help, TRE Legal Practice and LaBarre Law joined with the EEOC to enforce the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law on July 26, 1990 by President George H. W. Bush. The NFB, which defends the rights of blind people of all ages, also lent its support and expertise.

Mark Riccobono, President of the National Federation of the Blind, applauded the outcome: “As we said when suit was filed, Alina Sorling’s ability to work in food service did not diminish when she lost her sight, and this result rectifies the injustice that was done to her.”

“I think this case should send a strong message that blind people can safely work in a commercial kitchen in the food service industry,” said her attorney Timothy Elder in an interview with The Sacramento Bee, explaining that the California Department of Rehabilitation has a strong system in place to train both employees and employers on creating successful workplace environments for people like Ms. Sorling.

“Speaking out against discrimination at work is hard, but I am really glad I did,” said Ms. Sorling.

Dignity Health is headquartered in San Francisco. The largest hospital provider in California, it operates Mercy Medical Center in Redding, California, where Ms. Sorling worked for ten years before being fired because of false assumptions about her blindness.

The National Federation of the Blind (NFB), headquartered in Baltimore, is the oldest and largest nationwide organization of blind Americans. Founded in 1940, the NFB consists of affiliates, chapters, and divisions in the fifty states, Washington DC, and Puerto Rico. The NFB defends the rights of blind people of all ages, and provides information and support to families with blind children, older Americans who are losing vision, and more. They believe in the hopes and dreams of blind people and work together to transform them into reality. Learn more about their many programs and initiatives at nfb.org.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. In the words of EEOC Trial Attorney Ami Sanghvi, the agency “is empowered and proud to fight for the rights of people like Alina Sorling.” More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.