Company Required Employee to Take Meds at Job Site as a Condition of Employment, Federal Agency Charged
DETROIT - A manufacturer of various types of premium paper with a paper mill in Munising, Mich., will pay $33,000 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 Neenah Paper, Inc. violated federal law by refusing to allow Kristoffer Gauthier to return to his job on the production floor for seven months because of his disability, a seizure disorder. The agency also alleged that, as a condition to return to work, Neenah Paper required Gauthier to take his anti-epileptic medication under observation during his shifts.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, in May 2005, Gauthier was hired as a fourth hand laborer. In November 2012, he had a seizure at work and was placed on a medical leave of absence. On Dec. 11, he was cleared by his neurologist to return to work. Despite the medical clearance, Neenah Paper told Gauthier that it would not allow him to return to his position until a physician could confirm that he no longer had his condition. It wasn't until July 2013 that the company allowed Gauthier to return to his job, provided that he take his medication at work under observation - either in the presence of the plant nurse or designated co-workers who served as witnesses.
This 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. Neenah Paper, Inc., No. 2:15-cv-00113) against Neenah Paper in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The consent decree settling the suit, in addition to providing for the award of monetary relief to Gauthier, prohibits any similar discrimination in the future and requires Neenah Paper to post a notice about the lawsuit and employee rights under the ADA. In addition, Neenah Paper must train its managers at the Munising plant on disability discrimination and reasonable accommodations under the ADA.
"We believe this case exemplifies the spirit of the Americans with Disabilities Act," said Omar Weaver, senior trial attorney for EEOC's Detroit Field Office. "An employer cannot single out an employee who has a disability and impose a unique and over-protective rule on that person as a condition of employment."
EEOC's Detroit Field Office is part of the Indianapolis District Office, which oversees Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and parts of Ohio. EEOC is the agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on the agency's website at www.eeoc.gov