Worker at Disability Residential Services Company, Ameriserve International, Inc., Fired for Having Cancer in Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act – Friedman & Houlding LLP Files Charges with EEOC

ASI-Logo-300x132 Ameriserve International, Inc. (“Ameriserve”), an Iowa-based provider of residential services to those with intellectual disabilities, fired one of its employees because of her cancer diagnosis, in blatant violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and the Iowa Civil Rights Act of 1965 (“ICRA”), and its own stated mission, according to charges filed by Friedman & Houlding LLP with the EEOC and the Iowa Commission on Civil Rights to pursue these claims on behalf of the fired employee (“Charging Party”).

As alleged in her Charge of Discrimination, in November 2023, Charging Party was offered and accepted full-time employment as a Client Services Coordinator at Ameriserve, after interviewing with Ameriserve’s hiring manager Kyle Clemens. At the time Charging Party applied for a job with Ameriserve, she was employed at Catholic Charities, providing services to victims of sexual assault. She had sought employment at Ameriserve to further her career, given that the position at Ameriserve would be a supervisory role. A few weeks later, in December 2023, Charging Party accepted the position she was offered at Ameriserve and put in her resignation at Catholic Charities.

The next day, after a routine colonoscopy, Charging Party learned that she had colon cancer. After telling her supervisor, a Catholic Charities Director, the news of her diagnosis, the Catholic Charities Director stated that Charging Party could retract her resignation, take FMLA leave, and maintain her current health insurance, in case Charging Party’s prospective employer, Ameriserve, did anything to compromise her employment status there as a result of the diagnosis.

According to the Charge, given Catholic Charities’ offer to allow her to withdraw her resignation, and aware that she would not have the job protection of FMLA if she moved to Ameriserve, and therefore also risked losing her health insurance, Charging Party alleges that she told Clemens of her cancer diagnosis. As her Charge further alleges, Mr. Clemens assured Charging Party that her medical condition would have no impact on her employment at Ameriserve, and shared that he was a cancer survivor to emphasize that her employment was secure.

Mr. Clemens and Charging Party agreed on January 10, 2024 as her start date. When she raised the time off she would require to recover from her surgery, as her Charge alleges, Mr. Clemens pointed out that since she would be in training, which allowed for remote work and a flexible schedule, Ameriserve would have no difficulty accommodating her.

As alleged in the Charge, based on Mr. Clemens’ sharing his personal battle with cancer, and his assuring her that her treatment would not be an issue, Charging Party told the Catholic Charities Director that she was confirming her resignation from Catholic Charities—since she was assured that she would be able to keep her employment at Ameriserve and health insurance.

Charging Party began working at Ameriserve on January 10, 2024, as planned. She began training for her new position. However, as alleged in her Charge, she was not given much to do, and was practically begging for more work. Others around the office expressed to management that they should be giving Charging Party more work to do, but no one bothered to address Charging Party’s requests for additional training and assignments. Charging Party notified her supervisors at Ameriserve, including Mr. Clemens, that she would undergo surgery on Friday, January 26, 2024. She took off the week prior in preparation, as she had agreed with management.

According to the Charge, on Monday, January 29, 2024, as she began to recuperate from major surgery at home, Charging Party received an email from Clemens—copy to Director and Vice President Eric Seitz—stating as follows:

I hope your procedure went well last week. After careful consideration and discussion, we have chosen to exercise our 30 day probation period option and will be separating your employment with Ameriserve.

Had there been a probationary period where the Americans with Disabilities Act and ICRA would somehow have been suspended, and had she not been promised reasonable accommodations for her disability, Charging Party would not have taken the job. Fortunately, the ADA and ICRA contain no “probationary period.”

Ameriserve fired Charging Party on January 29 because it did not want to deal with the negligible inconvenience of allowing her to continue working during recovery from her surgery—which Clemens understood personally and explained to her so well.

Ameriserve Housing Inc. (“AHI”) is a 501(c)(3) organization, which claims to spend US taxpayers’ money “Providing clean, safe, affordable housing options for disabled persons,” however discriminating against Charging Party because of her disability, calls into question the legitimacy of its Program Statement to the Internal Revenue Service.

As alleged in her Charge of Discrimination, following her illegal termination, Ameriserve, by its CFO Steve Pearson, filed false papers with an Iowa State Agency, Iowa Workforce Development, which conceals the reason for Charging Party’s termination. In the filing, Pearson claims that Ameriserve terminated Charging Party on January 19, 2024 for unsatisfactory work. However, Charging Party worked the full day on January 19, 2024, and as of that date, Charging Party had only worked for 5 (five) days at Ameriserve, all of which were training days.

The false filing with Iowa Workforce Development, which contradicts the email Clemens sent terminating her on January 29—not January 19—because Ameriserve purportedly decided to “exercise our 30 day probation”, is highly probative of its intent to illegally discharge Charging Party. Termination of an employee because of her disability, and refusing to accommodate her disability, is in direct contravention of the basis upon which Ameriserve is permitted to spend US taxpayers’ money (most of which goes to Wayne Nielsen and his son Dana Nielsen, according to AHI’s most recent IRS Form 990 available).

Ameriserve’s outrageous conduct terminating  Charging Party’s employment is a violation of the ADA and ICRA, and is the cause of significant emotional and economic harm. Charging Party, recovering from surgery and with a cancer diagnosis that will require further medical care, no longer has health insurance, has no income, and suffers significant mental anguish as a result of Ameriserve’s actions. Friedman & Houlding LLP, on behalf of Charging Party, has called upon the EEOC and Iowa Civil Rights Commission to conduct the broadest possible investigation of this illegal conduct.


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