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Press Release

EEOC Sues Sanderson Farms for Disability Discrimination

Employer Refused to Provide Employee a Reasonable Accommodation and Instead Fired Him, Federal Agency Charges

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Sanderson Farms, Inc., the nation’s third-largest producer of chicken products with headquarters in Laurel, Mississippi, terminated a long-term disabled employee at its McComb processing plant in Summit, Mississippi when he sought a reasonable accommodation necessitated by his medical condition, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.  

According to the EEOC’s complaint, the employee chronically suffered from severe cluster headache attacks and lost consciousness at his worksite during an attack in May 2017. When he returned to work and presented a note from his neurologist that restricted him from working a night shift lasting longer than 12 hours,  Sanderson Farms, for the first time, demanded that he work a second shift after he completed his originally scheduled workday, to cover for an absent employee. The employee offered to work some overtime but was unwilling to work the entire second shift because of his doctor’s restriction and his need to return home to take his prescribed medication. The company refused to discuss his request for accommodation, sent him home to await further discipline, and ultimately fired him because of his disability and in retaliation for seeking a reasonable accommodation.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against individuals with a disability, requires employers to provide a reasonable accommodation for a disability, so long as it does not cause an undue hardship, and prohibits retaliation against an employee who seeks a reasonable accommodation.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Sanderson Farms, Inc., Case No. 5:21-cv-0084-KS-JCG) in  U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi after its Jackson Area Office completed an investigation and first attempted to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process. The EEOC seeks monetary damages for the victim, including backpay, compensatory and punitive damages, and injunctive relief against the company to prevent such unlawful conduct in the future.

“The Americans with Disabilities Act recognizes that individuals with disabilities are able to perform many jobs and make important contributions to our society and our economy. It is unlawful under the ADA for an employer to fire an employee because of his disability or because he seeks a reasonable accommodation of his disability,” said EEOC Birmingham District Director Bradley Anderson. “The EEOC is committed to ensuring that employers don’t deprive people with disabilities the ability to earn a living.”.
Marsha Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District, said, “Sanderson Farms discharged a valuable, long-term employee because of his disability and request for accommodation. Such conduct is unlawful, and the EEOC stands ready to hold employers accountable for violations of the ADA.”

Sanderson Farms, Inc. operates hatcheries, feed mills, and processing plants in Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, and Texas. The company recently announced that it intends to sell itself to a collection of private equity firms in a deal valued at $4.5 billion.

The EEOC’s Birmingham District consists of Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) 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.