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Press Release 04-25-2019

Cooper Machine Company to Pay $20,000 to Settle Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Company Fired Employee Because of Her Disability Federal Agency Charged

ATLANTA - Cooper Machine Company, Inc., a Wadley, Ga., company that sells and manufactures equipment used in the sawmill industry, will pay $20,000 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.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, on or about April 17, 2017, Janet Bryant, who worked for the company as a purchasing agent, was fired by the company's chief financial officer after informing the company that she was required to take medication because of her disability, anxiety disorder.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Cooper Machine Company, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:18-cv-00085-JRH-BKE in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

Under the consent decree settling the suit, Cooper Machine Company will pay Bryant $20,000 in lost wages and compensatory damages. In addition, Cooper Machine Company will be required to distribute a formal, written anti-discrimination policy to all employees at the site where the disabled employee worked. The decree also requires that the company provide annual equal employment opportunity training to its managers, supervisors and employees. The two-year decree further requires the company to post a notice to its employees about the lawsuit and to provide periodic reporting to EEOC about disability discrimination complaints.

"Disabilities are not to be the basis for terminating employees, if the employee can perform the essential functions of a job," said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the Atlanta District Office. "Ms. Bryant was performing well but was terminated solely because of her condition. This is unlawful and unacceptable, and the EEOC is here to fight for such people's rights."

Darrell Graham, acting director of the EEOC's Atlanta District Office, added, "Employers must not fire employees merely because they require some form of medication. If that practice were legal, it would devastate the American workforce." 

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.