Pipe Fittings Manufacturer Fired a Veteran With PTSD Instead of Giving Him Brief Unpaid Medical Leave as a Reasonable Accommodation, Federal Agency Says
PITTSBURGH - EZEFLOW USA, a pipe fittings manufacturer, violated federal law when it refused to give unpaid leave to a veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and fired him as a result of his disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Adam Brant, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in both Iraq and Afghanistan, worked for EZEFLOW USA, a Canadian-based company, at its U.S. headquarters in New Castle, Pa., as a maintenance technician. While there, he experienced seizures later determined to be caused by PTSD. Brant provided the company's human resources representative with a note from his neurologist requesting that Brant be off work for six weeks, and specifically restricting him from driving, heights and working with heavy machinery during that period.
The EEOC alleged that Brant requested six weeks of unpaid medical leave, a request that EZEFLOW USA denied because Brant was still a probationary employee, and that the company subsequently terminated him. The EEOC further charged that EZEFLOW USA maintains a policy of providing up to 26 weeks of paid leave to non-probationary employees.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from firing an individual because of his disability. The ADA also requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation, including granting unpaid medical leave, to an employee with a disability unless the company can show it would be an undue hardship to do so. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. EZEFLOW USA, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:14-cv-00527-MPK) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
"The EEOC is strongly committed to ensuring that veterans with disabilities are treated fairly in the workplace," said Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence of the EEOC's Philadelphia District Office. "This case demonstrates that the EEOC will engage in litigation when warranted: when an employer refuses to abide by its legal obligation to provide a reasonable accommodation to keep a veteran with a disability gainfully employed."
EEOC District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. added, "Mr. Brant served his country honorably as a Marine. Granting unpaid leave to a veteran with a disability is not only the decent thing to do - federal law requires it. Unfortunately, the company refused to even consider this easy way to accommodate Mr. Brant and instead fired a qualified veteran simply because of a disability - which is counterproductive as well as unlawful and unfair. That is why this lawsuit is important to the public interest."
On Nov. 16, 2011, the EEOC held a public hearing, entitled "Overcoming Barriers to the Employment of Veterans with Disabilities." In that meeting, the Commission heard testimony from a panel of experts on the unique needs of veterans with disabilities transitioning to civilian employment. As an outgrowth of that meeting, the EEOC issued two revised publications addressing veterans with disabilities and the ADA. The Guide for Employersexplains how protections for veterans with service-connected disabilities differ under the ADA and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), and how employers can prevent disability-based discrimination and provide reasonable accommodations.
The Guide for Wounded Veterans answers questions that veterans with service-related disabilities may have about the protections they are entitled to when they seek to return to their former jobs or look for civilian jobs. The publication also explains the kinds of accommodations that may be necessary to help veterans with disabilities obtain and successfully maintain employment.
The Philadelphia District Office of the EEOC oversees Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio.
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.