Company Fired Employee After Learning About Her Disability and Disability-Related Complaint, Federal Agency Had Charged
OXFORD – Valley Tool, Inc., a precision machine shop facility located in Water Valley, Miss., has agreed to pay $32,500 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 a sorter with sickle cell disease requested that Valley Tool allow her to take leave on the occasional days her blood disorder made her too ill to work. Instead, the suit alleged, Valley Tool removed the sorter from the work schedule, placed her on involuntary leave of absence, and then fired her because of her disability and in retaliation for her complaint about her super¬visor’s comments about her disability. The lawsuit also charged that Valley Tool failed to maintain medical records separate from employee personnel files.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Valley Tool, Inc., Civil Action No. 3:19-cv-00140) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi after attempting to reach a prelitigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to the monetary relief, the three-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit requires Valley Tool to train its supervisors, managers and owners to recognize and respond to disability discrimination, and to annually report complaints of disability discrimination to the EEOC. Valley Tool will also post a notice that affirms its ADA obligations and informs employees of their right to seek assistance from the EEOC if they believe they have been discriminated against because of their disability.
In a separate retaliation lawsuit filed at about the same time and in the same court and settled late last year, Valley Tool agreed to provide retaliation training to its supervisors and managers, and medical records training to all its management officials and Human Resources personnel.
“An employer cannot allow fears, myths, stigmas, stereotypes or prejudice to guide its consideration of an employee’s request for an accommodation or its employment actions,” said Faye Williams, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Memphis District Office. “The training and reporting provisions in the decree will ensure that qualified employees with disabilities are protected from discrimination and that this employer can make decisions without running afoul of the ADA.”
Edmond Sims, acting district director of the Memphis District Office, added, “This case serves as a reminder to small employers of the importance of training for supervisors, managers and human resources personnel regarding employment discrimination laws. Training can help ensure compliance with the laws.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.