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Press Release 10-01-2021

EEOC Sues Rover’s Place for Harassing an Opioid Addict in Recovery

Dog Kennel Company Subjected a Recovering Opioid Addict to Hostile Work Environment, Federal Agency Charges

CHICAGO – A dog kennel company in suburban Chicago, Rover’s Place, violated civil rights law when it subjected an employee to a hostile work environment, inquired into his medical history, and forced him to quit his job because of his opioid addiction disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed in Illinois yesterday.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employee worked without incident at the kennel company until one of the owner’s learned of his past drug use. The owner then confronted the employee and in an abusive manner inquired about his history of addiction and treatment even though the employee was not currently using drugs and had not presented any issue in the workplace because of his former drug use.

Such alleged conduct violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (U.S. EEOC v. Family Futures Group, Inc. d/b/a Rover’s Place, Civil Action No. 1:21-cv-05191) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the former employee, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.

“While in very limited circumstances, the ADA permits employers to make appropriate, job-related medical inquires, that law prohibits employers from harassing their employees because of a disability and denying them equal employment opportunities,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District Office.

Julianne Bowman, district director of the EEOC’s Chicago District, said, “Too often, misconceptions and stereotypes about workers receiving addiction treatment continue to block them from gainful employment. Recovering addicts present no greater safety risk in employment than the general population in the vast majority of jobs in our economy. The EEOC will aggressively investigate, and, if necessary, prosecute employers that violate the law and limit employment opportunities for individuals with disabilities.”

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.