House of Raeford Farms Sued By EEOC for Disability Discrimination

Poultry Processor Fired Employee  Because of Her Anemia, Agency Charges

WILMINGTON, N.C. - House of Raeford Farms, Inc., a Rose Hill, N.C.,  poultry processor, discriminated against  an employee with a disability and then unlawfully fired her, the U.S. Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.  The complaint further alleges that the  company illegally disclosed Sutton's disability.

According  to the EEOC's complaint, Erica Sutton suffers from anemia.  Sutton was hired by House of Raeford on July 19, 2010 on a box  construction line.  On May 24, 2011, the  box line employees were moved to the debone department, which is in a cold work  environment.  Sutton informed her  supervisor that because she is anemic, she could not work in a cold  environment, and requested to be transferred to a vacant position in a  department in a warmer area.  Instead of  assigning Sutton to a vacant position in the warmer area, the EEOC said, the  company sent her home, saying that it required a doctor's note stating that she  had been diagnosed with anemia.  Although  the company was aware that Sutton could not get an appointment with her doctor  to obtain the required doctor's note until June 21, the company discharged her  on June 1.  Finally, the agency also  charged, House of Raeford illegally disclosed Sutton's confidential medical  information to some of her co-workers during a meeting at the facility. 

Such alleged conduct violates  the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from  discrimination based on a disability and requires employers to provide disabled  employees with reasonable accommodations. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of  North Carolina, Southern Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission  v. House of Raeford Farms, Inc.; Civil Action No.7:13-CV-00183-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. 

"Federal law requires that  employers provide employees with disabilities with reasonable accommodations  unless the employer can show it would be an undue hardship to do so," said Lynette  A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District.  "The accommodation can be as simple as  transferring the employee into a vacant position that she is qualified for if  she cannot do her job because of her disability.  The EEOC alleges that this company refused  this reasonable request, and so the EEOC filed this lawsuit."

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.