After an office manager at a South Carolina company suffered a health setback and had to be hospitalized, she asked her employer for medical leave. The company fired her instead, according to a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
The suit alleges the company denied a request by an office manager for medical leave after the employee was hospitalized for a disability. The company then dismissed her. The EEOC’s suit also alleges that — in retaliation for the employee’s request — the company recruited other candidates for the office manager position and refused to rehire the employee, who expressed interest in being rehired into the position.
A violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act?
The EEOC says the company’s actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The ADA prohibits discrimination that is based on disability.
The director of the EEOC’s Atlanta office said, “Federal law does not allow employers to terminate an employee merely because the employer believes there are medical issues.”
The company is a pest control and landscaping business. It is based in South Carolina and operates in six other states: Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas.
Conciliation process failed
The EEOC filed the lawsuit after failing to reach a settlement with the company through pre-litigation conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking:
- Back pay
- Compensatory damages
- An injunction that would prevent future discrimination at the company
A spokesperson for the EEOC said, “The ADA affords people with disabilities the right to employment benefits without fear of negative employment actions by their employers. It is imperative that employers comprehend and uphold their duty to protect that right, particularly as it pertains to people who are most susceptible to mistreatment.”
Do you have questions about disability discrimination?
If you are an employer or employee who has questions about disability discrimination, contact a lawyer who is experienced in this area of the law.