Employees Fired Soon After Seizures, Federal Agency Charges
DENVER - The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed two lawsuits yesterday charging two separate employers with disability discrimination after they fired employees who had seizures at work. Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on disability and from retaliating against individuals who request accommodation or oppose disability-based discrimination. These cases demonstrate the agency's commitment to using its enforcement powers, as necessary, to address discrimination against individuals with disabilities.
In the first suit, filed against Gollnick Construction, which does business as Colorado Excavating, the EEOC alleges the company engaged in disability discrimination when it fired office assistant Dora Marquez just four days after she suffered a seizure at work. Before firing Marquez, Colorado Excavating failed to engage in an interactive process with her to discuss potential accommodations.
In the second suit, filed against Waterway Gas and Wash Company, a national provider of car wash services, the EEOC similarly alleges the company engaged in disability discrimination when it fired Tyson Aoyagi from its Lone Tree, Colorado location about two weeks after he suffered a seizure at work. Waterway refused to discuss his request for reasonable accommodation. According to EEOC's suit, the company fired Aoyagi because of his disability and in retaliation for requesting reasonable accommodation.
"Negative stereotypes and fears about people with epilepsy are inadequate grounds for refusing to accommodate the disability or for terminating an employee with a seizure disorder," said EEOC Regional Attorney Mary Jo O'Neill. "These two lawsuits stress that employment decisions should not be driven by stereotypes and fears about people with epilepsy."
"Despite medical advances and increased awareness about epilepsy, public misunderstanding and discrimination still exist for those with this brain disorder," said Sarah Klein, CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of Colorado. "Most people with epilepsy don't need any accommodations at work so employers should not presume that epilepsy has any impact on an employee's ability to do their job."
Studies show that the unemployment rate for individuals with epilepsy is two to three times that of the general population. Also, individuals with epilepsy who are gainfully employed are likely to be underemployed or earn less than people who do not have epilepsy.
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.