Company Refused to Accommodate Employee With Seizure Disorder, Then Fired Him, Federal Agency Charges
MADISON, Wis. - O'Reilly Automotive Stores, Inc., a national retailer doing business as O'Reilly Auto Parts, violated federal law by denying the manager of its Beloit, Wis., store an accommodation for his disability and then firing him, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed yesterday.
According to John Rowe, director of EEOC's Chicago District, which includes Wisconsin, the agency's investigation revealed that in February 2011, Heath Craft was diagnosed with seizure disorder. On March 9, Craft notified O'Reilly of his impairment and requested a one-month leave of absence for treatment. O'Reilly did not engage him in a good-faith interactive process about his leave request and instead fired him on March 31, 2011.
Denying an employee a reasonable accommodation and then firing him because of his disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks lost wages and compensatory and punitive damages for Craft, an order barring future discrimination, and other relief. The suit, captioned EEOC v. O'Reilly Automotive Stores, Inc. d/b/a O'Reilly Auto Parts (Civil Action No. 3:12-cv-710), was filed Sept. 27 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin in Madison and assigned to U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb.
"O'Reilly's website states: 'O'Reilly believes in . . . treating our customers and fellow team members in the same way that we would like to be treated,'" Rowe said. "Unfortunately, it appears that the company is not complying with its own principles. All Mr. Craft wanted was a short leave of absence so he could keep on performing successfully. There was no good reason why O'Reilly denied him that accommodation and then fired him."
EEOC Chicago Regional Attorney John C. Hendrickson added, "In our view, this is one of those cases in which a reasonable accommodation would have made all the difference. An employer would have kept a loyal and hard-working employee. The employee would have kept a needed job. That didn't happen, apparently because of a violation of federal disability law. Our objective here will be to set things right."
According to O'Reilly's website, O'Reilly Automotive, Inc. is one of the largest specialty retailers of automotive aftermarket parts, tools, supplies, equipment and accessories in the United States, serving both the do-it-yourself and professional service provider markets. Founded in 1957, O'Reilly operated 3,859 stores in 39 states as of June 30, 2012.
The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis. The case will be litigated by attorneys in the Milwaukee Area Office.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination in employment. Further information about the Commission is available on its website at t www.eeoc.gov.