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.