Company Fired Employee After Learning of His Pre-Existing Back Condition, Federal Agency Charged
JACKSON, Miss. – Agri-AFC, LLC, an agricultural retailer which operates 21 retail locations throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi, has agreed to pay $40,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a federal lawsuit charging that Agri fired an employee because of a pre-existing back condition, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employee was hired in 2017 to work at Agri’s Poplarville, Miss., facility as a driver and warehouse worker. Two months after his hire, the employee disclosed to Agri’s district manager that he was taking medication for a back injury he had suffered during military service. Almost immediately thereafter, the company demanded a list of the employee’s medications and then fired him, telling him the district manager felt he was a liability to the company because of his back injury and feared he would injure himself further, the EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on an applicant’s or employee’s disability. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Civil Action No. 1:20-cv-00114-TBM-RPM) in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi on March 26, 2020 after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process.
In addition to monetary relief, the two-year consent decree settling the lawsuit requires Agri to provide training to its employees on its obligations under the law and develop, implement, and maintain anti-discrimination and anti-retaliation policies. The decree also prohibits the company from engaging in any discrimination or retaliation because of disability. The decree requires Agri to post notices on its bulletin boards informing employees of their right to contact the EEOC if they feel they have been discriminated or retaliated against.
“Congress passed the ADA to protect applicants and employees from discrimination on the basis of disability or perceived disability,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Marsha Rucker. “The EEOC is vigilant in investigating charges of disability discrimination and, when necessary, taking legal action to ensure that employers do not deny equal employment opportunities to persons with actual or perceived disabilities.”
EEOC District Director Bradley Anderson added, “We appreciate that Agri agreed to an early resolution of this case and are pleased by the steps the company will take to help prevent workplace discrimination including training its employees on rights afforded under the ADA.”
The EEOC’s Birmingham District consists of Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) and the Florida Panhandle.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.