Luminant Mining Company LLC Settles EEOC Disability Lawsuit

by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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Company Fired Equipment Operator Because of His Clubfoot, Federal Agency Charged

DALLAS - Luminant Mining Company LLC, a Dallas,  Texas coal mining company, will pay $150,000 to a former equipment operator to  settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment  Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

The EEOC charged in its lawsuit that  the coal mine fired equipment operator James Tarver nine days after receiving  information from a doctor indicating that he was disabled, and recommending an  accommodation that the company could have easily granted. Tarver was born with  a clubfoot (congenital talipes equinovarus) and wears a foot brace. He  requested that he not be required to stand on concrete more than one hour per  day, as an accommodation to his disability. Tarver was hired to operate heavy  equipment. After initially working in that capacity, Tarver's supervisor  started making Tarver perform manual labor in the coal barn. This required  standing on concrete all day long sweeping coal dust and washing the concrete  floor.

Discriminating against an individual because of his or her  disability violates The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990, as amended. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Luminant Mining Co. LLC., Civil Action No. W-12-CV-314) in  U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Waco Division, after  first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.

The consent decree settling the suit was signed by U.S.  District Court Judge Walter S. Smith, Jr. on May 30, 2013. In it, Luminant  Mining Company agreed to pay $150,000 to James Tarver and will train all  employees on the requirements and prohibitions of the ADA. The company will  also
  develop policies to provide for reasonable accommodation and  to prohibit discrimination and
  retaliation.

"This is what can happen when a  company flatly refuses to maintain and enforce an ADA reasonable accommodation  policy," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney William C. Backhaus. "Every employer, large and small, needs to  recognize the importance of engaging in the interactive process once aware that  an employee needs an accommodation. Mr. Tarver's supervisor forced him work  while standing all day on concrete when he could have easily allowed Tarver to  operate heavy equipment, as he was hired to do. Management then compounded the  ADA violation with a termination."

"There are many discriminatory  assumptions about disabilities in today's workplaces," said Robert Canino,  Regional Attorney for the EEOC's Dallas Office.  "When an employer responds to a requested accommodation by simply  challenging the employee's general fitness and ability to do a job for which he  had already been deemed qualified, a red flag should go up."

"Allowing disability stereotypes to  factor into employment decisions is not an effective way to promote a safe and  healthy workplace, and can lead to a violation of the law, as it did here,"  added Janet Elizondo, District Director of the Dallas Office of the EEOC.

Addressing  emerging and developing issues under the ADA (including issues such as  reasonable accommodation, undue hardship and direct threat), is one of the six  national priorities identified by the Commission in the EEOC's Strategic Enforcement  Plan.

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

Mr. Tarver was also represented by  Mark Oberti of the Houston, Texas firm Oberti Sullivan LLP.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) | Attorney Advertising

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