Eden Prairie Company Fired Employee Based on Disability, Federal Agency Charged
MINNEAPOLIS – Employer Solutions Group, LLC (ESG), a payroll services company operating in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, has agreed to pay $95,000 to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that ESG fired an employee because she notified the company that she needed to use crutches following a surgery related to a knee injury. When the employee attempted to return to work following an approved medical leave, ESG asserted that she needed to be 100% healed before returning to work and cited her need for an “ambulatory aide” when firing her, according to the lawsuit.
Such conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which makes it unlawful to terminate or otherwise discriminate against an employee because he or she has a disability or perceived disability. The ADA also makes it unlawful to retaliate against an employee who requests an accommodation or opposes discrimination.
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Employer Solutions Group, LLC., Civil Action No. 19-cv-02315 (NEB/TNL)) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The settlement follows an Aug. 13 ruling by the court rejecting ESG’s motion for summary judgment and finding that the evidence against ESG warranted proceeding to trial. ESG agreed to settle the matter after the ruling.
In addition to the monetary relief, the three-year consent decree entered by U.S. District Court Judge Nancy E. Brasel requires ESG to eliminate any policy or practice of requiring individuals to be released without restrictions or 100% healed in order to work. The consent decree also requires training on the ADA for both management personnel and other employees and requires ESG to report any further disability discrimination complaints to the EEOC during the term of the decree.
“Employers cannot make employment decisions based on speculation about an employee’s disability,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District. “All employees, including individuals with physical impairments, are entitled to be evaluated based on their ability to do the job.”
Julianne Bowman, district director of the EEOC’s Chicago District, added, “As in this case, policies that require an employee to be 100% healed before returning to work are inconsistent with the ADA’s reasonable accommodation requirement, and the EEOC will pursue these violations when they occur.”
The Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and litigation in Illinois, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, and Iowa, 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.