Mass. Court: EHR Software Not Discriminatory

February 6, 2020 | Eric D. Fader | Electronic Health Records | Employer/Employee | Hospitals | Litigation

On January 31, a federal court in Massachusetts dismissed a lawsuit brought by the National Federation of the Blind (NFB) against Epic Systems Inc., that claimed that Epic’s electronic health records (EHR) software discriminates against blind hospital employees. The NFB had sued Epic on behalf of NFB members who allegedly suffered adverse employment actions because they weren’t able to use Epic’s software. Epic has a 28% share of the EHR market in U.S. acute-care hospitals, ahead of Cerner Corp.’s 26%.

Under the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act, non-employers as well as employers may be guilty of discriminatory employment practices. However, the U.S. District Court said that in order to establish disability bias, the Act requires proof that Epic used specific employment practices that weren’t reasonably related to job performance, and that Epic knew that those practices significantly affected a protected group. The court observed that Epic simply sells and licenses EHR products; it neither uses any specific discriminatory employment practice nor assists any employer in engaging in allegedly discriminatory conduct. Knowingly selling and licensing software that is inaccessible to blind employees is not sufficient to make Epic liable for how hospitals treat those employees, the court said.

“If NFB’s argument is taken to its logical conclusion, no company could sell any product to employers in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts that was not fully accessible to employee users with a range of disabilities,” the court stated. “Such extreme business regulation is not borne out by the statute.”

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