Federal Agency Says Company Fired Successful Worker Because of Bipolar Disorder
PHOENIX -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today that it has settled a disability discrimination lawsuit against Phoenix-area property management firms Riverstone Residential, SW, LLC and Realty Management, charging the companies with failing to accommodate and then firing employee Shaun Oldridge because he suffers from bipolar disorder.
According to the EEOC’s suit, EEOC v. Riverstone Residential, SW, LLC; Realty Management, CV-09-02038 PHX-JAT, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in Phoenix, Realty Management / Riverstone Residential hired Shaun Oldridge, but on or about March 21, 2008, Oldridge informed Realty Management that he had been involuntarily hospitalized, whereupon Realty Management unlawfully discharged him, even though his immediate supervisor said he was a good employee. The suit further charged that during his employment, Oldridge requested on a number of occasions to have one hour off to see his health care provider. Each request for this reasonable accommodation was unlawfully refused.
By settling the lawsuit, the defendants agreed to pay Oldridge $30,000 as compensatory damages. The consent decree settling the suit also provides that the defendants will provide appropriate training about disability discrimination to its employees, including managers. A notice is also required to be posted. The defendants will be enjoined for two years from retaliating or otherwise violating the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). All of the companies’ policies will be required to reflect the law against discrimination based upon a disability and the requirement to enter into an interactive process to determine a reasonable accommodation.
Oldridge, upon whose behalf the EEOC brought suit, said, “I think what they did was inappropriate and unethical. Hopefully they will be more careful and sensitive to employees with disabilities. I hope this experience will encourage them to hire someone with a disability in the future. People who have disabilities have something to offer, if given the opportunity.”
EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill said, “People with disabilities are an untapped resource that employers should utilize. Many disabled persons are qualified, ready and willing to work -- all they need is an equal opportunity. Some employers simply do not know that people with disabilities are protected from discrimination.”
Rayford O. Irvin, acting district director of the EEOC’s Phoenix District Office, added, “We will continue to vigorously pursue our mission of fighting employment discrimination on all fronts. We encourage employers and employees to sit down together and cooperate to find a reasonable accommodation that works for all parties involved, regardless of the disability. The quick result by our legal unit here should be commended.”
EEOC Trial Attorney Guy Knoller was glad that this matter was resolved quickly, fairly and without much cost to the defendants because they chose to settle before having lawyers file an answer on their behalf and litigating. It took about two and one-half months from instituting the lawsuit to the final resolution.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC’s Phoenix District Office has jurisdiction for Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, and part of New Mexico (including Albuquerque). Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.