Auto Dealership Harassed and Fired Worker Because of Bipolarism, Agency Charged
BALTIMORE – An Aberdeen, Md., auto dealership will pay $50,000 and furnish other remedial relief to settle a disability discrimination and harassment lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to EEOC’s suit, Adams Jeep of Maryland, Inc., engaged in unlawful discrimination when it denied a reasonable accommodation to Amy Smith shortly after she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and because of her record of disability. Further, the EEOC said, the company subjected her to harassment and fired her.
Smith had been employed since October 2009 as a telephone operator and promoted to an accounts payable/receivables position, when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in or around March 2010. After Smith disclosed her disorder to the office manager and assistant manager, she was subjected to epithets such as “pill popper” and “psycho.” While out on a medical leave of absence and under a doctor’s care, Smith was fired.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it unlawful to harass or discriminate against a qualified individual because of a disability or a record of disability. 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 operations of the employer’s business. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 1:11-cv-02813) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Along with the monetary payment to Smith, which represents back pay and compensatory damages, the consent decree settling the lawsuit requires that Adams Jeep of Maryland institute and distribute a written policy to all employees on disability discrimination and harassment. The policy will contain procedures for employees requesting reasonable accommodations under the ADA, and include medical leave as a reasonable accommodation. Additionally, the dealership will provide four hours of training to all current and new supervisors, post a notice affirming its commitment to all federal equal employment opportunity laws and submit reports to EEOC for the agreement’s two-year duration.
“The work force includes many people with psychiatric disabilities who face employment discrimination because of their conditions, which are stigmatized or misunderstood,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “Adams Jeep has worked with EEOC to obtain an early resolution of this litigation, an outcome that furthers the goal of providing a work environment free of disability harassment and discrimination.”
According to its website, (www.adamsjeepofmaryland.com) the company is “the No. 1 selling Jeep dealership in Harford, Cecil, and Baltimore Counties.”
During fiscal year 2011, disability discrimination charges filed with the EEOC reached a record level of 25,742 nationwide.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its web site at www.eeoc.gov.