Employee Fired for Complaining About Service Animal Issue, Federal Agency Charges
RALEIGH, N.C. - Tridev Hospitality, Inc., a hotel operator, violated federal law when it retaliated against a disabled employee by firing him because of his complaint about claimed disability discrimination, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Tridev operated a Rodeway Inn in Raleigh, N.C. The EEOC's complaint alleges that Tridev Hospitality fired Robert Betts because Betts complained that he was being discriminated against due to his disability, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Betts suffers from depression and a panic disorder, and uses a service animal as an accommodation for panic attacks. After Betts began working for Tridev as a desk clerk on or about June 21, 2012, he began bringing his service animal to work. After Betts discussed his disability and the use of his service animal with the hotel's general manager, his hours were cut. According to the EEOC's complaint, Betts then told the general manager that he believed that the general manager was discriminating against him by cutting his hours because of his disability. Betts also informed the general manager that he was going to file a discrimination complaint. The general manager then fired Betts as retaliation for his complaints.
Such alleged conduct violates the ADA, which protects employees from retaliation for complaining about disability-based discrimination. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Tridev Hospitality, Inc.; Civil Action No. 5:13-CV-00647-D) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.
"Retaliation is an issue of special concern to the EEOC," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District. "The ADA specifically prohibits retaliation by an employer against an employee who opposes what he perceives to be unlawful discrimination. Employees must be free to complain about practices that they believe violate employment discrimination laws without fear of retribution."
Eliminating policies and practices that discourage or prohibit individuals from exercising their rights under employment discrimination statutes, or that impede the EEOC's investigative or enforcement efforts, is one of six national priorities identified by the agency's 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.