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EEOC Sues Otto Candies for Disability Discrimination

Marine Transportation Service Provider Fired Employee Because of His Recurrent Pancreatitis, Federal Agency Charges

NEW ORLEANS - Otto Candies, LLC violated federal law when it discriminated against an employee because of his disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed here today. Otto Candies, which is based in Des Allemands, La., provides marine transportation services in the Gulf of Mexico. The employee, Shawn McLamb, had been working as a deckhand on one of Otto Candies' many supply vessels.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Otto Candies told Mr. McLamb that it was firing him because his recurrent pancreatitis - a condition that can cause infrequent and brief bouts of severe abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting - had rendered him unqualified. In determining that McLamb posed a risk to the safety of himself and others, Otto Candies disregarded the opinions of McLamb's doctor and the U.S. Coast Guard, both of which had determined that he was qualified even with the condition. The company also disregarded its own experience with McLamb, who had worked for ten years with his condition.

The EEOC filed its suit (Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-09584) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The EEOC, which has authority to bring the suit on behalf of the public, has asked the court to permanently enjoin Otto Candies from engaging in any future discrimination. It has also asked the court to order Otto Candies to pay McLamb lost wages and benefits as well as compensatory and punitive damages.

"Employers cannot make - and rely upon - unsubstantiated assumptions about an employee's physical or mental impairments," said Keith Hill, director for the EEOC's New Orleans Field Office.

Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the Houston District Office, cautioned, "Employers cannot assume that employees who have physical conditions have impairments that pose risks to themselves or others. The law requires that employers make an individualized assessment based on objective evidence."

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.