Company Fired Man After His Heart Attack, Federal Agency Charged
MINNEAPOLIS - A Minneapolis-based distributor will pay $50,000 under a consent decree which resolves a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
The EEOC's lawsuit charged that Baldwin Supply Company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it refused to allow Timothy E. Collins to return to work after he had a heart attack, and instead fired him.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Collins worked for Baldwin Supply Company at its Hibbing, Minn., location from April 2011 to July 2011 as a laborer, installing conveyor belts. Collins had a heart attack. Collins was released by his doctor to return to work with no restrictions, but when he contacted the company to let it know he was available to work, the employer did not allow Collins to return to work except for two days. The EEOC's lawsuit further alleged that Collins contacted the company's managers on several occasions about returning to work, but the company did not contact Collins any further regarding returning to work.
This alleged conduct violates the ADA, which protects employees from discrimination based on their actual or perceived disabilities. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Baldwin Supply Co.; Civil Action No. 0:14-cv-02138) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The consent decree settling the suit, entered by U.S. District Judge John R. Tunheim on April 3, 2015, provides $50,000 in monetary relief to Collins. It also requires Baldwin Supply Company to train its Hibbing-based management personnel on the ADA, including its prohibitions against disability discrimination. The decree also requires Baldwin Supply Company to train its non-management employees on their rights under the ADA, including their right to file discrimination charges with the EEOC. Finally, Baldwin Supply Company must report complaints of disability discrimination to the EEOC during the decree's two-year term.
John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the EEOC's Chicago District, said, "This consent decree provides meaningful equitable relief designed to prevent disability discrimination, and monitor any future complaints. The decree requires the company to report to the EEOC any complaints of alleged disability discrimination."
Tina Burnside, the trial attorney in EEOC's Minneapolis Area Office who litigated the case, added, "An employer cannot refuse to allow an employee to return to work because he has had a heart attack, and is perceived as disabled. Training on the ADA which Baldwin Supply Company agreed to as part of this settlement will educate the company and its managers about disability discrimination."
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and litigation in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and
Minneapolis. The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.