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Can I be Fired if I Ask for a Chair at Work?

Can I be Fired if I Ask for a Chair at Work?

New York employers have a legal responsibility to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with a medically documented disability. The purpose of laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is not to burden employers with unqualified workers, but rather to ensure capable employees are in a position to continue performing their jobs successfully. Employers who simply think they can reject an accommodation request and fire an employee are committing employment discrimination.

EEOC Sues Upstate Manufacturer Over Fired Employee with Chronic Kidney Condition

On August 1, 2018, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) formally charged an upstate New York manufacturer with illegal disability discrimination. The EEOC is the federal agency charged with investigating and pursuing discrimination claims on behalf of workers nationwide. It is important to remember, however, that a lawsuit is simply a statement of allegations and does not represent a finding of fact or law against the defendants.

In this case, the EEOC acted on behalf of a former employee of Remedy Intelligent Staffing, Inc., a California-based staffing company. According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Remedy assigned the employee to work as a general laborer for New York-based Lornamead, Inc. Lornamead subsequently assigned the employee to “work on various production lines” for the next three years.

In 2014, the employee developed a chronic kidney condition. Although the employee did not request or receive any special accommodation at the time due to this condition, by 2016 his “condition worsened,” according to the EEOC. At the time, Lornamead assigned the employee to operate a manual shrink-wrapping machine. The EEOC said the “repetitive movements” required by this work “aggravated” the employee's disability and “caused him severe pain.”

The employee therefore asked “permission to use a chair,” in effect an accommodation under the ADA according to the EEOC. Lornamead refused to give the employee a chair. A short time later, the employee's pain “became intolerable” and he asked for reassignment to another task. Although a supervisor initially relented and granted the reassignment, the next day he told the employee he would be fired if he ever “refused” to complete an assignment again.

The employee then provided medical documentation in the form of a doctor's note explaining his kidney condition and the need for certain accommodations. The EEOC said Lornamead responded by telling the employee “there was no way to accommodate him.” Instead, the company terminated the employee.

As is common in these types of disability discrimination cases, the EEOC seeks a permanent injunction against Longamead and Remedy, basically an order compelling them not to violate the ADA in the future. The EEOC also wants damages on behalf of the fired employee to compensate him for his “past and future” losses, including his medical expenses and the costs associated with having to find a new job. The EEOC's complaint remains pending before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York.

Get Help from a NYC Disability Discrimination Lawyer Today

If you are struggling to cope with a medical disability at work, remember you have certain rights. You should not fear employer retaliation for exercising those rights. If you require advice or assistance from a qualified New York employment attorney, contact the Law Offices of Nisar Law Group, P.C., today.

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