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EEOC Sues Austal USA For Disability Discrimination

Global Defense Contractor Fired Employee Who Needed Intermittent Leave to Treat Diabetes, Federal Agency Charges

MOBILE, Ala. - Austal USA, LLC, a global designer and manufacturer of defense and commercial ships headquartered in Mobile, Ala., violated federal law when it applied its attendance policy to terminate a long-term employee who required intermittent leave to address complications of his diabetes, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit announced today.

According to the EEOC's suit, Austal assessed negative points against a warehouse employee for instances of being late to work, leaving work early or being absent for treatment of his diabetes, and then fired him for exceeding the maximum number of points under its attendance policy.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects an employee from discrimination based on his disability when he can perform the essential functions of his job with a reasonable accommodation, such as intermittent medical leave. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for Southern District of Alabama (EEOC v. Austal USA, LLC, 1:18-cv-00416) after the EEOC's Mobile Local Office completed an investigation and first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

"The ADA does not permit an employer to use an internal leave policy to discipline or fire an employee whose disability requires him to take leave," said EEOC Birmingham District Director Bradley Anderson. "Once on notice of a disability, an employer must determine whether a reasonable accommodation will help the employee to work."

Marsha Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham District, said, "Federal law requires employers to make a genuine effort to engage in an interactive process to provide reasonable accommodations - such as modifications of leave policies. Nothing supersedes this mandate. The EEOC will continue to seek relief for qualified employees with disabilities who are harmed by blanket leave policies such as this one."

The EEOC's Birmingham District Office has jurisdiction over Alabama, Mississippi (all but 17 counties in the northern part of Mississippi), and the Florida Panhandle.

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.