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June 3, 2013

Hospital Worker’s Seizures Jeapordize Patient Safety: Disability Discrimination vs. Patient Safety

When a case involving an employee’s seizures at work went to a federal appeals court, the employer said it was ensuring safety while the worker said it was a case of disability discrimination.

Andrea Olsen worked as a mammography technician at the Capital Region Medical Center (CRMC) In Missouri. She has epilepsy and suffered numerous seizures at work. CRMC required Olsen to follow protocols and recommended safety standards while she operated the radiographic equipment.

Olsen’s seizures were unpredictable. Her first one at CRMC happened in 2004. During a seizure at work in 2007, Olsen hit her head on a counter and bit her tongue and cheek.

After she suffered more seizures on the job, CRMC placed Olsen on paid administrative leave in August 2008.

While on leave, Olsen consulted a neurologist, who gave her a letter approving her return to work. She resumed her duties. In November 2008, a seizure caused her to fall, resulting in a head wound that required staples.

Once again, after determining that the risk to patients and to herself was too great, CRMC placed her on leave.

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