Energy-Efficient Lighting Manufacturer Fired Employee in a Wheelchair After He Requested Automatic Door Openers, Federal Agency Charged
MILWAUKEE -- Energy-efficient lighting designer and manufacturer Orion Energy Systems will pay $160,000 and furnish other relief to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, Orion fired IT employee Scott Conant after he suffered a medical event at work that rendered him with a mobility impairment and required him to use a wheelchair to move distances greater than 15 feet. EEOC claimed that Orion refused to grant Conant's request for the reasonable accommodation of installing an automatic door opener. The agency further asserted that Orion fired Conant because of his disability and in retaliation for requesting reasonable accommodations for his disability.
Terminating a qualified employee because of a disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law also requires an employer to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee or job applicant with a disability unless doing so would impose an undue hardship for the employer. After an investigation and attempting to resolve the case through pre-litigation conciliation efforts, EEOC filed the lawsuit (EEOC v. Orion Energy Systems, Case Civil Action No. 14-0619) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Orion moved for summary judgment on the EEOC's reasonable accommodation claim; its motion was denied by the district court.
"This year the EEOC is celebrating the 25th anniversary of the signing of the ADA," said EEOC Regional Attorney John Hendrickson. "Still, situations like those at Orion show that there is more work to be done to ensure that the promise of the ADA becomes a reality for all. We are pleased with this settlement and the positive new changes that will occur at Orion Energies."
The parties entered into a three-year consent decree to resolve EEOC's suit. Aside from the monetary relief obtained for the discrimination victim, Orion agreed to review and revise its existing anti-discrimination and accommodation policies and procedures, provide training on those policies and procedures to all staff, and monitor and track requests for accommodation and terminations involving persons with disabilities.
EEOC's Chicago office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement, and the conduct of agency litigation in North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, with area offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.