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PRESS RELEASE
9-29-11

Probat / Bauermeister Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination

German Company Fired Memphis Employee Due to Bipolar Disorder, Federal Agency Charges

MEMPHIS, Tenn. – A German-based company with a facility in Memphis that grinds food products as well as other chemicals and minerals violated federal law by discriminating against an employee because of his disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.

The EEOC’s suit asserts that Probat, Inc., doing business as Bauermeister, Inc., violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) when it discharged the employee because of his disability, bipolar disorder.  After a medical leave of absence, the employee informed the company president of his disability.  The company president requested numerous medical evaluations, but then refused to accept the release-to-work documents submitted by the employee’s medical providers and refused to allow the employee to return to work.  Bauermeister then fired the employee, the EEOC said. 

The EEOC filed suit, Civil Action No. 2:11-cv-2851, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Western Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.  The agency’s lawsuit seeks monetary relief in the form of back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, reinstatement and an injunction against future discrimination, among other items.

“The ADA, as amended by the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act, prohibits employers from taking actions based on assumptions about how a disability will affect an employee’s ability to perform the job,” said Katharine W. Kores, district director of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office, which has jurisdiction over Arkansas, Tennessee and portions of Mississippi.  “Here, medical providers released the employee to return to work and the employer refused to return him.  Discrimination against people with disabilities continues to be a serious problem in the workplace.  This agency is committed to its responsibility in enforcing the ADA.”

Bauermeister, Inc. employed approximately 40 employees at its Memphis, Tennessee facility during the relevant time period.  The parent company, Probat-Werke, is headquartered in Emmerich, Germany.  The Probat Group of Companies has eight manufacturing and technology companies in Germany, Italy, Brazil and in Vernon Hills, Ill.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination.  Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.