Skip top navigation Skip to content

Print   Email  Share

PRESS RELEASE
9-9-19

EEOC Sues Union Pacific Railroad for Disability Discrimination

Railroad Company Refuses to Allow Employee Who Once Had Brain Tumor to Return to Work as Custodian, Federal Agency Charges

CHICAGO - Union Pacific Railroad Company is violating federal law by refusing to return an employee who once had a brain tumor to work as a custodian, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Union Pacific imposed unlawful restrictions on an employee who once had a brain tumor and then used those restrictions to justify its refusal to allow the employee to return to work as a custodian, a position Union Pacific claims is "safety-critical." Without assessing the employee individually, and based solely on the employee's history of having a tumor removed, Union Pacific instituted blanket restrictions out of unfounded fears that the employee would suffer from sudden incapacitation due to seizures, according to the EEOC. Union Pacific ignored the employee's own doctors' assessments that the employee was not at risk for sudden incapacitation and evidence that the employee fully recovered and had never had a seizure post-hospitalization, EEOC alleges.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits workplace discrimination, including failure to return to work employees who are regarded as disabled but can perform the essential duties of an available job. The EEOC filed suit, EEOC v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-06021, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

"Employers cannot impose restrictions on employees based on unreasonable fears. Rather, any restrictions must rely on an individualized assessment, based on reasonable medical evidence, of an employee's ability to perform the essential functions of the job safely," said Julianne Bowman, the EEOC's district director in Chicago. "The EEOC is committed to the removal of unnecessary and discriminatory barriers to employment for employees who are regarded as disabled or based on their record of having a past disability."

Gregory Gochanour, EEOC's regional attorney in Chicago, added, "Union Pacific refuses to employ anyone who has had a brain tumor removed in any job it considers 'safety-critical.' Blanket exclusions of this type are unlawful under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The EEOC will continue to enforce federal anti-discrimination laws against employers that impose unlawful restrictions on employees and prevent their return to gainful work."

The EEOC's Chicago District Office is responsible for processing charges of discrimination, administrative enforcement and the conduct of agency litigation in Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa and North and South Dakota, with Area Offices in Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

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