Poultry Processor Fired Employee Because of Her Anemia, Agency Charges
WILMINGTON, N.C. - House of Raeford Farms, Inc., a Rose Hill, N.C., poultry processor, discriminated against an employee with a disability and then unlawfully fired her, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. The complaint further alleges that the company illegally disclosed Sutton's disability.
According to the EEOC's complaint, Erica Sutton suffers from anemia. Sutton was hired by House of Raeford on July 19, 2010 on a box construction line. On May 24, 2011, the box line employees were moved to the debone department, which is in a cold work environment. Sutton informed her supervisor that because she is anemic, she could not work in a cold environment, and requested to be transferred to a vacant position in a department in a warmer area. Instead of assigning Sutton to a vacant position in the warmer area, the EEOC said, the company sent her home, saying that it required a doctor's note stating that she had been diagnosed with anemia. Although the company was aware that Sutton could not get an appointment with her doctor to obtain the required doctor's note until June 21, the company discharged her on June 1. Finally, the agency also charged, House of Raeford illegally disclosed Sutton's confidential medical information to some of her co-workers during a meeting at the facility.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on a disability and requires employers to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Southern Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. House of Raeford Farms, Inc.; Civil Action No.7:13-CV-00183-D) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief.
"Federal law requires that employers provide employees with disabilities with reasonable accommodations unless the employer can show it would be an undue hardship to do so," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District. "The accommodation can be as simple as transferring the employee into a vacant position that she is qualified for if she cannot do her job because of her disability. The EEOC alleges that this company refused this reasonable request, and so the EEOC filed this lawsuit."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency's web site at www.eeoc.gov.