Upstate NY Employer Company Settles EEOC Disability Discrimination Charges

Last August we discussed a pending disability discrimination case against a western New York truck dealership. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) accused the company of firing an employee who previously received “exceptional” performance reviews after he requested medical leave to recover from hip replacement surgery. On June 7, 2018, the EEOC announced that the parties had reached a settlement.

Wrongfully Fired Employee Receives $65,000 in Damages

The EEOC is charged with enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other federal employment discrimination laws. The agency can take direct action against an employer accused of discrimination. Alternatively, it may issue a “right to sue” letter, authoring the complaining employee to file his or her own civil lawsuit. Regardless of the type of proceeding, a court may order an offending employer to pay compensation to the employee and other damages.

In this case, the employer agreed to the entry of a “consent decree.” This is a judicial order authorizing certain relief. However, the defendant does not necessarily admit to the EEOC's charges, and the court does not enter any formal findings with respect to the EEOC's allegations.

Under the consent decree the employer will pay the fired employee $65,000 “for lost wages and other damages.” The company must also take steps to ensure there are no future acts of discrimination against other employees. This includes providing managers and human resources employees with “comprehensive training on the protections of the ADA,” according to the EEOC. The agency will monitor the employer's compliance with these requirements for a period of three years.

Understanding Your Rights Under the ADA

The ADA offers broad protections for most New York workers who have a medically documented disability. If you have a disability, your employer is required to make “reasonable accommodations” for your condition. It is your responsibility to notify your employer about your disability and request such an accommodation. While your employer is not required to grant any accommodation you request, it must engage in a good-faith “interactive” process with you to determine what alternative accommodations are available.

In cases like the one described above, a reasonable accommodation may include medical leave. Depending on your particular situation, it may also include modifying your work schedule, reassigning you to a less strenuous position, or relocating you to a more accessible office. Again, the goal is to reach a “reasonable” accommodation that satisfies both you and your employer.

What your employer may not do is take any retaliatory action in response to an accommodation request under the ADA. Obviously, as the EEOC has made clear, this means you cannot fire a disabled employee for making a request. But your employer may also not transfer you, cut your pay or benefits, or demote you in retaliation.

If your employer has refused to engage in the interactive process or committed acts of retaliation, you need to speak with a qualified New York employment attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Law Offices of White, Nisar & Hilferty, LLP, today if you require immediate legal assistance.