According to an EEOC press release, a Tucson-area trucking company is being sued for violating federal law by automatically firing employees after the employees have taken medical leave.
Elizabeth Barr worked as a payroll and billing clerk for CTI from November 2002 until August 2010. Barr suffered from a rare eye disease that limited her eyesight. Over the years, Barr has needed multiple surgeries to correct her vision.
Barr requested leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which allows employees up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave durning any 12-month period. Before Barr’s FMLA leave was up, CTI informed Barr that if her doctor did not release her to “full, unrestricted duty,” her employment benefits might be terminated.
Barr requested additional recovery time, but CTI refused to make any accommodations to meet Barr’s needs.
The EEOC alleges that CTI terminated Barr’s employment because of her disability “and/or because she need a reasonable accommodation.”
Barr’s story is not unique at CTI. According to the Arizona Star, Myron Pruett worked as a driver for CTI from 2003 to 2010. Pruett suffered from respiratory issues. He was off work fro 12 weeks for treatment and recovery. When he wanted to return to work but in another position, he was fired.
According to the EEOC, CTI violated Title 1 of the American with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employers from discriminating against qualified individuals who have disabilities.
The EEOC is suing CTI for violating Title I after attempts at reaching a pre-litigation settlement were unsuccessful.
The EEOC is seeking monetary damages, including back pay, compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages.
“Recent amendments to the ADA make clear that the protections for persons with disabilities should be broadly applied,” said EEOC Phoenix Regional Attorney Mary Jo O’Neill. “Individuals with disabilities are an untapped resource that employers should utilize. Many are qualified, ready and willing to work — all they need is an equal opportunity.”
EEOC District Director Rayford O. Irvin added, “Once an employee asks for a reasonable accommodation, the employer is required to engage in an interactive process to see if there are ways that the employee can be accommodated, rather than simply firing the employee. We will continue to vigorously pursue our mission of fighting employment discrimination on all fronts. Employers have a legal obligation to provide reasonable accommodations unless there is an undue hardship.”