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Tyson Foods Sued by EEOC for Disability Bias

Meat Processor Violated Federal Law by Refusing to Rehire Epileptic Employee Because of His Disability, Federal Agency Charges

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today announced that it has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against global meat processor Tyson Foods, Inc. The suit alleges that Tyson refused to rehire an employee at its Sedalia, Mo., location for a full-time position in the maintenance department because of his epilepsy.

The EEOC’s lawsuit charged that Tyson violated civil rights laws in May 2008 when the company revoked the offer of employment it extended to Mark White after the company doctor learned of his epilepsy and asserted his belief that there was no job White could perform at Tyson with that disability. At the time of his application, White had not had a seizure in over 15 years. White also had successfully worked at Tyson in the maintenance department on two prior occasions after he was diagnosed with epilepsy but before the company had hired a doctor to perform medical screenings.

Disability discrimination violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The suit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Tyson Foods, Inc., Case No. 2:10-cv-04072-NKL) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri only after investigating White’s charge of discrimination, finding merit, and attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process.

“It is illegal for a company to refuse to employ a disabled person while assuming the person cannot perform the job,” said Barbara A. Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office. “This is true whether it is the company doctor or a member of management who is making the assumption. All applicants must be evaluated based on their individual capabilities and skills, not stereotypes.”

According to company information, Tyson Foods, headquartered in Springdale, Ark., is one of the world’s largest processors and marketers of chicken, beef and pork. The company employs over 117,000 people at more than 400 facilities and offices in the United States and around the world.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available on its web site at