Employee Fired Because of Chronic Back Pain, Federal Agency Charged
INDIANAPOLIS -- Americold Logistics, LLC, an Atlanta-based global provider of temperature-controlled warehousing and logistics to the food industry, will pay $46,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, an Americold employee had chronic lumbar back pain with radiculopathy in her legs. The EEOC said Americold refused to allow her to return to work from medical leave because she had medical restrictions and refused to explore or provide any accommodation that would have permitted the employee to return to work. The company also required her, unlike others, to call her supervisor daily while on medical leave, the agency said. Finally, the EEOC charged, Americold fired her for "failure to return from leave" even though she had tried to return to work. The company reportedly told the woman that she "had to be 100%" to return to her duties.
Discriminating against an individual because of his or her disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA also requires employers to engage in an interactive process with the individual with a disability, where necessary, to find accommodations that would permit the employee to perform the essential functions of the job in question. The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 4:12-cv-47-JHM) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Kentucky, Owensboro Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The consent decree settling the suit was signed by U.S. District Court Judge Joseph H. McKinley on June 14. In it, Americold Logistics agreed to pay $46,000 to the discrimination victim and will train all management- and supervisory-level employees, as well as human resources personnel, in the company's seven-state Southwest Region on the requirements and prohibitions of the ADA. The company will also develop and maintain policies which address how reasonable accommodations will be provided during the course of employment.
"The EEOC takes seriously its charge to eliminate employment discrimination against people with disabilities and remains committed to enforcing the ADA," said Laurie A. Young, regional attorney for the EEOC's Indianapolis District Office.
Addressing emerging and developing issues under the ADA (including issues such as reasonable accommodation and undue hardship), is one of the six national priorities identified by the EEOC in its Strategic Enforcement Plan.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.