Truck Dealership Fired Employee After Leave Request, Federal Agency Charged
NEW YORK - Regional International Corporation, a commercial truck and trailer dealership with locations in Western New York, has agreed to pay $65,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, in June 2015, Regional International Corporation fired a truck parts delivery driver shortly after he requested leave for hip replacement surgery to treat hip osteoarthritis. The same supervisor who had recently given the driver a performance rating of "Exceptional" and wrote that he had received "no complaints from customers" nevertheless told the driver that he was being fired due to customer complaints. This supervisor also informed the EEOC during the agency's investigation that disabled people could not work for the company because they would not be able to get the work done, EEOC claimed.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects employees from disability discrimination, including the failure to provide reasonable workplace accommodations to qualified individuals who have a disability, have a record of disability, or are regarded as disabled. Such reasonable accommodations can include leaves of absence. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York (EEOC v. Regional International Corporation, Civil Action No. 17-cv-06505), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
On June 6, 2018, U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford entered a consent decree resolving the case. In addition to a $65,000 award for lost wages and other damages, the three-year consent decree includes multiple steps to prevent disability discrimination from occurring at the company in the future. For example, the decree requires comprehensive training on the protections of the ADA for all employees, including supervisors and human resource employees, as well as the adoption of policies and practices to promote a workplace free of disability discrimination.
"Here, an 'Exceptional' employee lost his job after requesting time off to treat a painful disability," said EEOC Regional Attorney Jeffrey Burstein. "We are pleased that the parties were able to reach a resolution to better protect the rights of employees with disabilities."
Kevin Berry, the EEOC's New York District director, added, "We hope that this settlement will help inform employers and the public at large that under the ADA, employees may be entitled to take medical leave when it is a reasonable accommodation of a disability."
The EEOC's New York District Office is responsible for processing discrimination charges, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in New York, northern New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.