Human Resources Manager Fired Because of Coronary Artery Disease, Agency Says
DETROIT - A paper and packaging manufacturer with a facility located in Battle Creek, Mich., will pay $187,500 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
EEOC's lawsuit charged that RockTenn Company and RockTenn Services, Inc. violated federal law by failing to reasonably accommodate the disability of Glenn Janisch and firing him during a pre-authorized short-term-disability leave because of his severe coronary artery disease.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, Glen Janisch began working for RockTenn in October of 2010 as the human resources manager for the Battle Creek plant. In January 2011, Janisch underwent open heart coronary bypass surgery and was authorized for short-term disability leave through mid-April 2011. However, in early March 2011, he received medical clearance from his doctor to return to work, initially for half days, and promptly notified RockTenn of his return date, March 21. Despite Janisch's imminent return on a date certain, RockTenn terminated his employment on March 10, 2011.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees because of such medical conditions. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. RockTenn Co. & RockTenn Services, Inc., No. 1:14-cv-00973) against RockTenn in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Janisch intervened in EEOC's lawsuit but did not raise additional claims under federal or state law.
The consent decree settling the suit, in addition to the award of monetary relief, prohibits any such discrimination in the future and requires RockTenn to post a notice about the lawsuit and employee rights under the ADA. In addition, RockTenn must train its human resources managers and Battle Creek plant managers on disability discrimination and reasonable accommodations under the ADA.
"The law is clear that a medical leave of absence can be a reasonable accommodation under suitable circumstances," said Omar Weaver, senior trial attorney for EEOC's Detroit Field Office. "Employers must provide this type of accommodation, whenever possible, before they prematurely terminate employees with disabilities."
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Its Indianapolis District Office's jurisdiction includes Indiana, Michigan, Kentucky and the western counties of Ohio. Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.