Company Failed to Provide a Reasonable Accommodation to Visually Impaired Employee And Fired Her and Others Because of Their Disabilities, Federal Agency Charges
PHOENIX - CTI, Inc., a Tucson-area regional trucking company violated federal law by automatically firing employees after medical leave without considering or offering possible reasonable accommodations, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Elizabeth Barr, who suffered from a rare eye disease that substantially limited her eyesight, worked at CTI as a payroll and billing clerk from about November 2002 until August 2010. As a result of her eye disease, Barr needed multiple surgeries to correct her eyesight. She requested and used leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which entitles eligible employees of covered employers to up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during any 12-month period. Prior to the expiration of her FMLA leave, CTI informed Barr that if her doctor did not release her to "full, unrestricted duty," her employment and benefits might be terminated. Barr asked for additional time to recover, but CTI denied her requests and refused to explore possible accommodations with her.
Instead, the EEOC alleges, CTI terminated her employment because of her disability and/or because she needed a reasonable accommodation. The EEOC also alleges that other employees were discharged because of their disabilities and/or because they needed reasonable accommodations.
Such alleged conduct violates Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals with disabilities. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. CTI, Inc., Case 4:13-cv-01279-DTF) in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensation for emotional distress, and punitive damages. The EEOC also seeks injunctive relief, including reinstatement of the affected individuals and other relief to prevent further discriminatory practices.
"Recent amendments to the ADA make clear that the protections for persons with disabilities should be broadly applied," said EEOC Phoenix Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "Individuals with disabilities are an untapped resource that employers should utilize. Many are qualified, ready and willing to work -- all they need is an equal opportunity."
EEOC District Director Rayford O. Irvin added, "Once an employee asks for a reasonable accommodation, the employer is required to engage in an interactive process to see if there are ways that the employee can be accommodated, rather than simply firing the employee. We will continue to vigorously pursue our mission of fighting employment discrimination on all fronts. Employers have a legal obligation to provide reasonable accommodations unless there is an undue hardship."
The EEOC enforces the federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC's Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque). Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.