EEOC Says Worker Subjected to Name Calling, Denied an Accommodation, Then Fired
BALTIMORE – 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 announced today against Adams Jeep of Maryland, Inc.
In its suit (Civil Action No. 1:11-cv-02813) filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, the EEOC charges that Adams Jeep harassed and discharged Amy Smith based on her disability, bipolar disorder, and her record of disability. The suit also charges that Smith was denied a reasonable accommodation of medical leave based on her disability and record of disability.
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.
Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities in employment. An employer is required to make a reasonable accommodation to the known disability of a qualified applicant or employee if it would not impose an undue hardship on the operation of the employer’s business.
The EEOC filed suit under the Americans With Disabilities Act, (ADA), as amended through the ADA Amendments of 2008, and Title I of the Civil Rights Act of 1991 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The complaint seeks monetary and injunctive relief, including back wages, compensatory damages, the creation of and effective dissemination of effective anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, training and punitive damages for its callous indifference to Smith’s federally protected rights to be free from discrimination based on disability.
“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.” According to its website, (www.adamsjeepofmaryland.com) they are “the No. 1 selling Jeep dealership in Harford, Cecil, and Baltimore County.”
In fiscal year 2010, private sector workplace discrimination charge filings with the EEOC hit an unprecedented level of 99,922, which included a record-high number of disability charges (25,165) – an increase of 17.3 percent in disability charges over the prior fiscal year.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.