Professional Freezing Services to Pay $80k under Consent Decree Ending Disability Discrimination Suit

by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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Owner Said Prostate Cancer Patient  Refused Hire Would 'End Up Wearing Diapers,'  Federal Agency Charged

CHICAGO - The federal district court in  Chicago has entered a consent decree requiring Professional Freezing Services,  LLC, a Southwest Side Chicago provider of logistical services to the  refrigerated and frozen food markets, to pay $80,000 and provide other relief in  order to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal  Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. 

In its  lawsuit, the EEOC charged that Professional Freezing, which operates a largely  refrig­erated 165,000-square-foot facility near the intersection of the  Stevenson Expressway and South Cicero Avenue, violated  the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) when it refused to hire William Harvel  because he had prostate cancer.  A former  employee later testified under oath at his deposition that he had heard company  owner Edward Gryzwacz make derogatory statements about Harvel and his  disability, including that he could not hire Harvel because he had cancer, and,  "in a best-case scenario, would end up wearing diapers."

Such alleged conduct violates the ADA.  The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Professional Freezing Services, LLC, N.D. Ill. No. 04183) June  5, 2013 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois after  first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation  process.  The case was originally  assigned to District Judge Ruben Castillo. 

The consent decree ending the case was  signed by U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox on April 15, 2014.  In addition to requiring the company to make  the $80,000 payment to Harvel, the two-year consent decree enjoins the company  from engaging in any practice in the future that discriminates on the basis of  disability, including refusing to hire qualified individuals because their  disabilities, and it bars retaliation against individuals asserting their rights  under the ADA.  The decree also requires  Professional Freezing to provide training to  all employees, including Gryzwacz, regarding its obligations under the ADA with  respect to the hiring of individuals with disabilities;  to submit periodic reports to the EEOC about  any complaints of disability discrimination; and to post a notice regarding the  outcome of the lawsuit on its employee bulletin board for two years.

"There  is hardly a family in America that has not been touched by cancer in one form  or another," said EEOC's Chicago Regional Attorney John Hendrickson.  "Through the crucible of that experience,  those families and most employers have learned that cancer patients and  survivors can and do work, and work well.   Protecting their right to do so in the face unlawful bias is what the  ADA is about, and why EEOC was determined to pursue this case to the result we  announce today."

The EEOC litigation team on the case  was led by Supervisory Trial Attorney Diane Smason and included Trial Attorneys  June Calhoun and Brandi Davis.

Calhoun said, "The testimony in this  case was clear-cut and unassailable.   That helped us in achieving this clear and effective settlement."

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is  responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement,  and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa,  North Dakota and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and  Minneapolis. 

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

 

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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