The case descriptions and EEOC responses given below are excerpts or summaries taken from EEOC press releases.
Hiring Process and Medical Examinations/Drug Screens (1-23-12)
Recovering substance abusers cannot be discriminated against because they are seeking treatment.
Company Rescinded Job Offer to Recovering Drug Addict Because of His Disability, Agency Charged (1-23-12) United Insurance Company of America will pay $37,500 and furnish other relief to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Craig Burns is a recovering drug addict who has been enrolled in a methadone treatment program since 2004. In January 2010, United Insurance offered Burns a position as an insurance agent in its Raleigh office, conditioned upon Burns’ passing a drug test. After Burns’ drug test showed the presence of methadone in his system, Burns submitted a letter to United Insurance from his treatment provider explaining that he was participating in supervised methadone treatment program and taking legally prescribed medication as part of the treatment. Upon receiving this information, United Insurance notified Burns that he was not eligible for hire and withdrew its offer of employment. Response: “The ADA requires employers to make an individualized assessment of whether an individual can do the job rather than relying on fears or stereotypes,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District.
Essential and Non-Essential Job Functions (12-16-11)
Termination must be based only on the inability to do the essential functions of the job (despite reasonable accommodations).
Car Dealership Fired Salesperson Because of Leg Condition, Federal Agency Charged
A large Wheeling car dealership will pay $56,000 and furnish significant injunctive relief to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).The EEOC charged that Jim Robinson Ford fired Bryan Perry because of his disability, a leg condition that affected his ability to walk, after denying him a reasonable accommodation. Response: “When an employer is on notice that one of its employees cannot perform a job function due to a disability, the ADA requires that the employer distinguish between the essential and non-essential functions of that job,” said Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. “The employer must then work to identify a reasonable accommodation for the employee’s disability. Earnest, interactive communication with the employee, viewing the purpose of the job and its functions realistically, and carefully researching and considering options for reasonable accommodation of the disability are all keys to ADA compliance.”
Reasonable Accommation/Retaliation/Essential Functions(12-16-11)
Wal-Mart to Pay $275,000 to Former Employee Fired after Cancer Surgery Company Violated ADAAA Disability Law
In its lawsuit, the EEOC charged that the company denied a 12-year employee of its East Tennessee distribution center #6039 in Midway, Tenn., a reasonable accommodation after he had cancer surgery, which left him with weakness in his right shoulder. The EEOC said Wal-Mart also fired him in retaliation for complaining about its refusal to accommodate him. The employee had successfully worked as a forklift driver after the surgery. He requested that the company not require him to cover a 20-minute break in the shipping department because it would require manual lifting. Wal-Mart denied his request for an accommodation and discharged him, claiming he could not perform the essential functions of his job. Response: “There is a solid body of federal law that clearly obligates employers to provide an employee with a reasonable accommodation unless it poses an undue hardship,” said Faye A. Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Memphis District Office.
Policies that Require Disabled Employees to be “100% Able to Work” or Face Termination. Accessible Parking and Employees with Disabilities
Disabled Employee Interrogated and Fired after Seen Parking in Handicap Parking Space
Sysco Oklahoma LLC., a leader in food distribution, will pay $82,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). The EEOC had charged that Sysco subjected a disabled employee to unlawful medical inquiries, demands and, ultimately, termination on the basis of her disability. The EEOC alleged that Amanda Thompson, who worked for Sysco as a customer service representative, was observed legally parking in one of the employer’s unreserved handicap parking spaces in February 2009. In response to this observation, Sysco confronted Thompson and demanded that she describe how she was handicapped, produce supporting medical records, and provide Sysco with a physician’s full medical release stating she is 100% able to perform her job without restrictions or be terminated. Sysco made these demands notwithstanding the fact that Thompson had a valid handicap parking permit and had been performing her job satisfactorily at all times, the EEOC said. Several days later, before the deadline for providing the medical release had passed, Sysco unlawfully fired Thompson.
The consent decree settling the suit, which must be approved by Judge Joe Heaton, also provides for injunctive relief, including posting notification to employees, revision and dissemination of anti-discrimination policies, and live training on disability anti-discrimination law. Sysco will also discontinue its practice of requiring disabled employees to be 100% able to work without considering whether they are able to work with a reasonable accommodation. Response: “Corporations and their subsidiary businesses need to do what they can to anticipate and prevent these violations of law that are both embarrassing and harmful to the employees and employers involved. We believe that this consent decree will go a long way to aid Sysco in preventing future violations.”–Barbara A. Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, whose jurisdiction includes Oklahoma.
Reasonable Accommodation in the Hiring Process (11-8-11)
Federal Agency Charged That Texas Staffing Company Failed to Provide Applicant with Reasonable Accommodation and Denied Him Employment Because of Kidney Disease
An Irving, Texas-based staffing company will pay $30,000 and furnish other relief to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). According to the EEOC’s complaint, Sharif K. Thompson has end-stage renal disease, a condition in which his kidneys no longer function and he is not able to urinate. The EEOC charged that around May 2010 Thompson applied for a shift supervisor position at G2 Secure Staff’s facility at Raleigh-Durham International Airport in Raleigh, N.C. Thompson successfully completed all of the requirements for obtaining the position with the exception of a drug test. Due to the fact that Thompson is not able to urinate, he asked if he could take the drug test using a hair sample rather than a urinalysis as an accommodation for his disability. However, the company failed to provide Thompson the opportunity to take the drug test by hair sample or any other means that would have enabled him to be hired into the position he sought. Consequently, Thompson was denied the job, the EEOC said. Response: “This was a situation where based on EEOC’s allegations in the complaint, EEOC contends that the employer could have easily made the requested accommodation and avoided this entire process.”– Lynette A. Barnes, Regional Attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District.
Use of Job Coach as a Reasonable Accommodation/Autism (11-7-11)
Hotel Fired Clerk After Denying Him a State-Paid Job Coach, Charged EEOC
Tarsadia Hotels, doing business as Comfort Suites, a hotel developer and operator in California, will pay $132,500 and implement substantial changes to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed on behalf of hotel clerk with autism. The clerk, who has autism, had prior hotel experience in a similar position, where his work earned him a positive recommendation. Shortly after starting at Comfort Suites, he sought free job coach services from the state. A job coach would have helped the clerk learn to master his job by using autism-specific training techniques. However, Tarsadia refused to allow the assistance of a job coach and then fired him. Response: Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Los Angeles District Office, said, “We commend Tarsadia for implementing widespread change, assuring that people with disabilities have a fair shot at gaining and retaining employment. Other employers should also learn to comply with the ADA rather than be driven by stereotypes about disabilities like autism.”
Employers Requiring Ability to Perform Job Without Medical Restrictions or Face Termination (10-21-11)
Federal Agency Alleges Millwright Unlawfully Fired Over Medical Conditions
The Industrial Company Wyoming, Inc., a heavy construction company, has agreed to pay $135,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, EEOC v. T.I.C.-The Industrial Company Wyoming, Inc. filed in federal court in Cheyenne on Sept. 30, 2011, millwright Matthew Gilkey, despite satisfactorily performing his job for several weeks, was fired by TIC Wyoming on Oct. 27, 2006, because of the need to make reasonable accommodation for his physical impairments, which included a leg amputation. The EEOC also claimed that TIC Wyoming refused to allow Gilkey to return to work unless he provided medical documentation that he could perform his job duties without medical restrictions. The EEOC further alleged that the company also failed or refused to engage Gilkey in good-faith discussions about accommodations he had requested and TIC Wyoming had previously provided but then withdrew.
EEOC Says Worker Subjected to Name Calling, Denied an Accommodation, Then Fired
An Aberdeen, Md. auto dealership violated federal law when it fired an office worker soon after she disclosed that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit against Adams Jeep of Maryland, Inc. According to the suit, the EEOC says that Smith had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in or around March 2010. She began her employment in October 2009 as a telephone operator and was promoted to an accounts payable/receivables position. At the time of her diagnosis, Smith disclosed her disorder to the Office Manager and Assistant Manager. Soon after, the assistant manager, in the presence of the General Manager and Office Manager, called Smith a “pill popper” and “psycho.” While out on a medical leave of absence and under doctor’s care, Smith was fired. Response: “The greatest barrier to employment for people with psychiatric disabilities is employers’ myths and fears about their condition, not the disabilities themselves,” said Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “We brought this lawsuit because the underlying purpose of the ADA is to eliminate employment discrimination for individuals who are qualified to do the job.”
Reasonable Accommodation & Schedule Changes. (8-23/11)
Schedule changes should be considered as a reasonable accommodation and employers must show that a schedule change would cause an undue hardship as a reason for denial. The main point of the case was that a request for a schedule change was not even considered by the company.
Employee Forced to Quit After Store Denies a Regular Schedule to Accommodate Her Diabetes
Kohl’s department store in Westbrook, Maine changed the long-held set schedule of an employee with diabetes to a rotating schedule. She began to suffer significant complications to her diabetes after working the rotating schedule. She requested to be returned to her set schedule and provided a note from her physician explaining that a set schedule was needed to prevent serious complications from her diabetes. Kohl’s repeatedly denied the request even though other employees had received changes in their schedules for reasons such as day care and transportation. The woman then left her job in order to maintain her health. Response: “Keeping Ms. Manning on a regular, set schedule would have posed no undue hardship on this company. When one considers the possible dire consequences of ignoring her needs, refusing her request out of hand was unconscionable.” –Elizabeth Grossman, regional attorney for the EEOC’s New York District. http://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/8-23-11.cfm
Denial of Reasonable Accommodation and Termination Based on “possible danger to employees and customers”. (8/18/11)
Employment decisions must be based on actual threats to safety rather than perceptions or bias. The EEOC commended Starbucks response that included training of managers and supervisory employees. The case demonstrates the importance of a company’s managers and supervisors understanding employees rights under the ADA.
El Paso Cafe’ Refused Reasonable Accommodation and Fired Barista Due to Dwarfism
According to the EEOC’s suit, Elsa Sallard, whose stature is small due to dwarfism, was denied an opportunity to work for (Starbucks) the world’s largest coffeehouse chain. The job description for the barista position stated that no prior experience was required. During the orientation training, Sallard suggested that she could use a stool or small stepladder to more easily perform some of the tasks of preparing orders and serving customers. The manager at the El Paso Starbucks location disregarded Sallard’s request, the EEOC said. On the same day that Sallard requested the accommodation, Starbucks terminated her employment, claiming that she would pose a “danger” to customers and employees. Response: EEOC Trial Attorney Joel Clark added, “The ADA prohibits managers from ignoring reasonable accommodation requests made by qualified persons with disabilities. In-house education can be effective toward eliminating assumptions and promoting an interactive process for a more inclusive work force.” http://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/8-18-11.cfm
Termination Based Solely on Disability (8/17/11)
This case shows the importance of basing both hiring and termination decisions upon the individual’s ability to do the essential functions of job rather than terminating a new hire solely on the fact that the employee has a disability.
National Health Care Corporation Sued by the EEOC for Disability Discrimination
According to the EEOC’s suit, National Health Care violated the ADA by firing Elisa Stamey because she had multiple sclerosis (MS) and a history of bursitis. Stamey, a registered nurse with over 15 years of experience, applied for a job with NHC’s Ft. Oglethorpe, Ga., location and was hired in December 2009 as a part-time weekend registered nurse/shift supervisor. On Dec. 21, 2009, she received her schedule and filled out the new hire paperwork including a medical questionnaire which revealed her medical conditions. Upon learning of these, the company required a medical release from Stamey’s physician. The next day, before she could get the proper form from her doctor, Stamey was terminated. Response: “The EEOC is committed to vigorously enforcing the ADA,” said Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, district director for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. “As Congress made clear in the ADAAA, the protections for persons with disabilities should be broadly applied. Ms. Stamey is a perfect example of the people the amendment was designed to protect.” http://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/8-17-11a.cfm
Protection of Employees Who are “Regarded As” having a Disability. (8/17/11)
This case demonstrates that employees who are “regarded as” having a disability by their employers are protected from discrimination under the ADA, even if they do not have a disability.
Woman Was Fired for Migraines at Work, Federal Agency Charges.
The EEOC is suing Rexnord Industries for violating Title I of the ADA. According to the EEOC’s district director in Chicago, the EEOC’s pre-suit administrative investigation revealed that Rexnord’s Stearns Division fired Danielle Sullivan after she twice became ill at work. Sullivan suffers from migraines and was regarded by Rexnord as having a seizure disorder. EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson said, “The ADA has been on the books for around 20 years. Most employers achieve compliance as a matter of course, but there are those who don’t. It looks to us as though Rexnord may have slipped into the latter group as far as Danielle Sullivan is concerned, and we have undertaken this litigation to correct that.”
Reasonable Accommodation & Medication.
This case demonstrates that allowing an employee time to alter and/or adjust to medication can be a reasonable accommodation. Failure to consider or engage in any attempt to provide reasonable accommodations is considered discrimination under the ADA.
Pantengo Utility Failed to Provide Employee with Reasonable Accommodation
According to the EEOC’s complaint, since 2002, Jeffrey Erdman has suffered from a chronic pain condition that substantially limits the functioning of his neurological system. Erdman began working for Tideland EMC as an apprentice lineman in February 2009. According to the EEOC’s suit, around May 2009, Tideland EMC learned that Erdman was taking a legally prescribed narcotic medication in order to manage his chronic pain condition. Upon learning about Erdman’s medication, the EEOC said, Tideland EMC terminated Erdman without giving him a reasonable amount of time to change his medication regimen in order to keep his employment. EEOC Response: “Employers must attempt to work with disabled employees who need an accommodation to perform the essential functions of their jobs,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte Regional Office.http://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/6-23-11.cfm
Discrimination Based on Disability Confidentiality of Medical Information
The ADA protects employees from termination based solely on having a disability. Title I provisions of the ADA also require employers to keep employee medical and health records confidential. The settlement agreement below provides a clear example of both improper use of medical information and termination based on the fact that the employee had or was perceived as having a disability.
Ellicott City Surveying Company To Pay $77,000 To Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit
According to EEOC’s suit, Fisher, Collins & Carter, Inc. engaged in unlawful disability discrimination when it fired Robert Gray and Wayne Seifert shortly after it discovered, through a questionnaire on employees’ health conditions, medical issues and medications, that they both had both diabetes and hypertension. Gray had worked for the company for 15 years starting as a rodman (a surveyor’s technician) and was a party chief at his termination. Seifert had been employed since 2000 as a rodman. Both had demonstrated successful performance throughout their employment there. http://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/6-20-11.cfm
Discrimination based on being “regarded as” an individual with a disability.
The ADA protects not only people with disabilities against discrimination, it also extends this protection to individuals who do not have a disability but experience discrimination because they are “regarded as” an individual with a disability. The settlement agreement below provides a good example of the definition of “regarded as”having a disability under the ADA.
Englobal Engineering To Pay $100,000 To Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit Company Fired Employee Because of False Belief He Had MS.
The Agency Charged Jeffery Rose was employed as the regional safety supervisor at ENGlobal’s Beaumont facility. Soon after starting his job, he began experiencing numbness and tingling in his extremities. Rose sought medical tests to determine the cause of the symptoms. He informed his immediate supervisor, the regional safety manager, of the symptoms, his doctor’s visits, and medical tests. He also told the regional safety manager that the doctors believed he may have MS. The regional safety manager was a part-time paramedic who claimed to be familiar with MS. Upon learning of the potential MS, the regional safety manager recruited someone else for Rose’s position and urged him to take medical leave, telling him that MS is “very debilitating” and that he did not think the company would “want to deal with” his disease. Rose followed his supervisor’s advice and took medical leave. However, when Rose obtained from his doctor full medical clearance to return to work without any restrictions, ENGlobal’s human resources manager refused to honor it, stating that Rose’s position was no longer available, despite the fact that it was available and remained so until the company hired someone else for the position approximately two weeks later. EEOC’s response: “We hope this settlement sends a clear message to all employers that decision making based on myths, fears and stereotypes about physical conditions, rather than on objective analysis of a person’s actual capabilities, constitutes disability discrimination and it is a violation of federal law,” said EEOC Houston Regional Attorney Jim Sacher. “The ADA requires that all employees be given equal opportunity to jobs regardless of actual or perceived disabilities”. http://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/6-17-11.cfm
Transfer to another position as a reasonable accommodation.
A transfer to another position, if the employee with a disability is qualified for the position, is considered a reasonable accommodation unless doing so would cause an undue hardship or administrative burden for the employer. When a qualified employee with a disability requests a reasonable accommodation, the employer must take steps to see if the accommodation, or some form of the accommodation, can be provided. Refusal of a reasonable accommodation must be based on the criteria for establishing undue burden, direct threat, and administrative hardship.
Apparel Retailer Finish Line Settles EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit
According to the EEOC’s suit, Finish Line refused to grant Emma Armon, who has a physical impairment related to a right shoulder injury, a transfer to an available customer service representative position as a reasonable accommodation to her disability. Armon, who worked at Finish Line’s Indianapolis store/warehouse, was qualified for the open position. EEOC Response: “As the statute makes clear, failure to provide a reasonable accommodation for disabilities is in violation of federal law,” said Laurie Young, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Indianapolis District Office. “We are committed to pursuing justice for those who are denied the right to continue to work in their jobs and make a living because their physical impairments. http://www1.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/6-16-11a.cfm
Definition of Essential Functions of a Job Reassigning Non-Essential Functions as Reasonable Accommodation
A qualified individual with a disability is protected from employment discrimination if they can do the “essential functions” of their job with or without reasonable accommodations. Essential functions are the fundamental job duties of the position– activities considered essential because the reason the position exists is to perform that function. Activities that are marginal to the job are not considered “essential functions”. Some activities can be considered essential to a particular position based upon that fact that a limited number of other employees are available to carry out the activity or the activity is highly specialized and the employee was hired because of his or her expertise and ability perform that specific activity.
EEOC Obtains $600,000 Verdict Against AutoZone For Failure To Accommodate Disabled Employee. Jury Finds That Auto Parts Retailer Refused to Accommodate Sales Manager with Neck and Back Impairments.
AutoZone was charged with requiring a sales manager to perform certain cleaning tasks, including mopping floors, that violated his medical restrictions. The sales manager, who worked at the company’s Macomb, Ill., retail store until 2003, is disabled with permanent back and neck impairments. The EEOC presented evidence that mopping floors was a non-essential function of the sales manager position that could have been reassigned to other employees, and that the employee could perform all of the essential functions of his job. The sales manager testified that that he asked not to be assigned mopping and supported his request with documentation of his impairment. The EEOC’s evidence at trial indicated that in 2003, new store management refused the request and required the employee to mop, leading to further injury and necessitating a medical leave. EEOC Response: The EEOC charged that the company’s actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires that employers make reasonable accommodations to the known physical limitations of employees with disabilities. Under the ADA, a reasonable accommodation may include the elimination or modification of a non-essential job duty, or the transfer of a non-essential job duty to another employee. http://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/6-3-11e.cfm