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Press Release 04-19-2022

Agropur Agrees to Pay $79,000 to Resolve EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

Dairy Processor Fired Disabled Employee Rather Than Accommodate Her, Federal Agency Charges

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Agropur, Inc., a dairy processor and U.S. subsidiary of Canadian-based Agropur Cooperative, will pay $79,000 and provide other relief to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC charged that Agropur violated federal law at its Grand Rapids, Michigan plant by failing to provide an employee with a disability with a reasonable accommodation, which resulted in her discharge.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Agropur refused to accommodate the employee’s severe dyshidrotic eczema, a skin condition. While working for Agropur, the employee learned she was allergic to rubber and plastics. She requested a reasonable accommodation, including the ability to wear a different type of glove while working.

Instead of accommodating the employee, Agropur forced her to leave work when she had flare-ups, the EEOC said. When she left work, she was penalized by receiving attendance points. Ultimately, the EEOC said, Agropur fired her after she had accumulated attendance points that accrued as a direct result of the company’s failure to provide her with a reasonable accommodation.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. After attempting to reach a pre-litigation resolution through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan (EEOC v. Agropur, Inc., Case No. 1:21-CV-00765).

In addition to the monetary relief, the consent decree settling the suit provides for injunctive relief, training on the ADA, and compliance-related reporting to the EEOC.

“Adhering to an inflexible no-fault attendance policy may violate the ADA,” explained EEOC trial attorney Nedra Campbell. “Employers should determine whether an employee who needs leave because of a medical condition is entitled to an accommodation under the ADA. Agropur should be commended both for agreeing to a consent decree early in this litigation and committing to ensure its managerial and human resource employees are trained on the ADA.”

Agropur, Inc. is a dairy processor that produces cheese, whey products and dairy ingredients with its approximately 2,800 employees located throughout the United States. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of Agropur Cooperative, a Canadian-based diary processor.

The EEOC’s Detroit Field Office is part of the Indianapolis District Office, which oversees Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and parts of Ohio.

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