EEOC Sues Manufacturing Companies for Disability Discrimination

U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Man Fired for Disability-Related Absences, Federal Agency Charges

CHICAGO – Grief, Inc., an international manufacturing company, and American Flange, its wholly-owned subsidiary operating in the western suburbs of Chicago, violated federal law when they fired an employee and refused to excuse his disability-related absences, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC’s suit, the agency’s pre-suit investigation revealed American Flange and Grief implemented a point-based attendance system that did not excuse disability-related absences. Because of this policy, an employee who had two absences sparked by a seizure disorder was fired even though the companies knew the absences were due to his medical condition.

This alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibits discrimination based on a person’s disability. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. American Flange and Grief, Inc., 1:21-cv-05552) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the former employee, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.

“While employers are obviously allowed to maintain attendance policies, the ADA requires them to approach absences that stem from disabilities with flexibility, and to explore ways for employees with disabilities to continue to work with reasonable accommodations when necessary,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District Office. “Firing this employee after he incurred just two and a half attendance points falls short of that mark.”

According to Julie Bowman, district director of the Chicago District Office, “Most long-term medical conditions will qualify as a disability if they have an impact on how a person lives and works. Some disabiling conditions are readily apparent – a person may need the assistance of a wheelchair or a guide dog. Other conditions, such as a seizure disorder, may be undetectable to casual observation. But when an employee makes their condition known to an employer, the ADA requires the employer to provide necessary reasonable accommodations when doing so would not be unduly burdensome. The EEOC found that Grief and American Flange failed to do so.”

The EEOC’s Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of employment discrimination, 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 advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov.

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