Poultry Hatchery Fired Employee While on Approved Leave, Federal Agency Charged
ATLANTA - Harrison Poultry, Inc. a poultry hatchery located in Bethlehem, Ga., unlawfully terminated an employee with a disability who was on approved leave, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Harrison Poultry, Inc. violated federal law by terminating Nightshift Manager Ronnie Smith rather than granting his request for a reasonable accommodation after he was diagnosed with emphysema. He was discharged days after he requested a 12-day extension to his vacation leave in order to comply with his physician's medical restriction that he not work during that time. The agency alleges Smith was replaced by a person who was hired approximately three months after his discharge.
Disability discrimination violates the American with Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires employers to attempt to make reasonable accommodations for employees with disabilities such as Smith's. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief designed to stop and prevent future disability discrimination.
"It is essential that employers recognize that providing a reasonable accommodation to a qualified individual with a disability is mandatory unless the request would cause an undue hardship." said Robert Dawkins, regional attorney for the EEOC's Atlanta District Office, which filed the suit. "The leave requested by Mr. Smith was relatively short and could have been granted with little disruption."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's website at www.eeoc.gov.