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Press Release 06-23-2011

EEOC Sues Tideland EMC For Disability Discrimination

Pantego Utility Failed to Provide Employee with Reasonable Accommodation, Federal Agency Charges

RALEIGH, N.C.  – The Tideland Electric Membership Corporation (Tideland EMC), a Pantego,  N.C.-based utility company, unlawfully failed to  accommodate a disabled employee and then fired him because of his disability,  the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a disability  discrimination lawsuit it filed today.

According  to the EEOC's complaint, since 2002, Jeffrey Erdman has suffered from a chronic  pain condition that substantially limits the functioning of his neurological  system. Erdman began working for  Tideland EMC as an apprentice lineman in February 2009. According to the EEOC's suit, around May 2009,  Tideland EMC learned that Erdman was taking a legally prescribed narcotic  medication in order to manage his chronic pain condition. Upon learning about Erdman's medication, the  EEOC said, Tideland EMC terminated Erdman without giving him a reasonable  amount of time to change his medication regimen in order to keep his employment.

Such  alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees and applicants  from discrimination based on their disabilities. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court  for the Eastern District of North Carolina (Equal Employ­ment Opportunity  Commission v. Tideland Electric Membership Corporation; Civil Action  No.4:11-CV-00108-BO) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation  settlement. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory  damages and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief.

"Employers  must attempt to work with disabled employees who need an accommodation to  perform the essential functions of their jobs," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional  attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte  District, which includes  the EEOC's Raleigh Area Office, where the charge was filed. "Federal law requires that they provide  disabled employees who are ready, willing, and able to work with reasonable  accommodations. The EEOC will continue  to vigorously prosecute cases where the employer fails to do so."

Tideland  EMC provides electrical services to Date, Hyde, Beaufort,  Washington, Pamlico and Craven counties of North Carolina and employs  approximately 100 people.

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment  discrimination. Further information  about the EEOC is available on the agency's web site at