Leading Industrial Supplies Provider Fired Employee After He Requested Leave Due to a Medical Condition, Federal Agency Charged
ATLANTA - Vallen Distribution, Inc. d/b/a Hagemeyer North America, Inc., a national leading provider of indirect industrial supplies violated federal law when it fired an employee after he requested leave due to a medical condition, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it recently filed.
According to the EEOC's suit, in August 2015, Hagemeyer fired Warehouse Driver Wesley Smith rather than grant his request for unpaid leave to treat and recover from prostate cancer. Smith, who worked in Hagemeyer's Augusta, Ga. warehouse facility, was fired the day before he was scheduled to undergo surgery.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibits discrimination based on a disability. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Vallen Distribution, Inc. d/b/a Hagemeyer North America, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-00146-JRH-BKE) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia, Augusta Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking reinstatement, back pay, front pay, compensatory and punitive damages for Smith, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent future discrimination.
"When an employer knows an employee has a disability and will need to be absent from work because of it, the employer should meet with the employee and seek to accommodate him," said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC's Atlanta District Office. ""Medical leave is a widely-recognized accommodation, and in Mr. Smith's case, could easily have been granted, preventing the firing of a valuable employee. However, instead of accommodating him, Hagemeyer fired Smith, less than 24-hours before his surgery.."
Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, district director of the Atlanta office, said, "The interactive process is most important during the accommodation process. In this case, Hagemeyer was much more interested in firing an employee with a disability rather than accommodating him and failed in its responsibility under the law."
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.