Company Fired Employee Because Of Lifting Limitation, Federal Agency Charges
MILWAUKEE – AutoZone, Inc., the nationwide auto parts retailer, violated federal law by firing an employee because of her disability and failing to provide reasonable accommodation for her lifting limitation, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
The EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No. 2:12-cv-303 in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin) alleged that AutoZone violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by terminating Margaret Zych, a parts store manager in AutoZone’s Cudahy store, in July 2009 shortly after she had received her doctor’s release to return to work with a permanent 15-pound lifting restriction – the result of a 2007 work injury to her shoulder. The agency said that AutoZone fired Zych because of her disability and failed to provide reasonable accommodation for the lifting restriction, even though it had provided an accommodation for nearly two years after the injury occurred.
Such alleged conduct violates the ADA, which requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation of an employee’s disability unless the employer would suffer an undue hardship as a result. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through its conciliation process. Among other things, the agency’s lawsuit seeks monetary relief in the form of back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and a permanent injunction enjoining AutoZone from further discriminating on the basis of disability.
“AutoZone terminated Ms. Zych after four years of dedicated service, without continuing an accommodation that had worked well,” said John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District. “A company is legally obligated to work toward reasonable accommodations with its employees, and a permanent restriction is not the end of the process, especially where the employee has been doing the job effectively.”
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota and South Dakota, and operates Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.