Waconia Manufacturer Fired Employee After a Week in Hospital, Federal Agency Charged
MINNEAPOLIS - Applied Vacuum Technology (AVT), a Waconia, Minn.-based company that manufactures a full line of vacuum hardware, will pay $50,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The case is EEOC v. Applied Vacuum Technology, Inc., Case No. 12-cv-02473 SRN/FLN, filed in the District of Minnesota.
According to the EEOC's suit, AVT fired Larry Kating when he sought to return to work after being hospitalized for a week. Although AVT knew about Kating's hospitalization and condition, it fired him for failing to call in every day of the hospitalization. The EEOC contended that AVT fired Kating because it regarded him as having a disability, which violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The consent decree settling the suit requires that AVT pay Kating $50,000 and engage in extensive equitable relief, including injunctive relief for the decree's five-year term. Importantly, the decree provides assurances that AVT will make its workplace policies clear to its employees and provide training on them. For example, within six months of entry of the decree, AVT must prepare an employee handbook containing its workplace policies, which will include the policy on the consequences of not reporting into work daily; on workplace discrimination and harassment; and on requesting a reasonable accommodation for a disability. The company will then call an all-employee meeting to explain the policies in the handbook. AVT will also will train all of its personnel on the law against discrimination on the basis of disability and against retaliation, which will be introduced by AVT's president or chief executive officer.
"Many of the cases that we see can be avoided with some simple training and straightforward policies for managers and employees," said John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the EEOC's Chicago District. "More than anything, we think that the provisions in this decree relating to the development of an employee handbook and training on the employer's policies will have a long-term benefit for both AVT and its employees."
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.