Excerpted from JD Supra by U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)

Company Punished Employees for Complaining About Mistreatment, Federal Agency Charges

OXFORD, Miss. – A tool company operating in Water Valley, Miss., violated federal civil rights laws when it denied an employee a reasonable accommodation for her disability, fired her and then punished her for complaining about it, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. The company also denied another employee wage increases in retaliation for the filing of a charge of discrimination. Valley Tool manufactures custom tooling, including repair and part replacement.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employees worked as sorters for Valley Tool in 2016, 2017 and 2018. When one employee disclosed she had a “blood disorder” that caused her to miss work, Valley Tool’s manager told her he would not have hired her if he had known she had a blood disorder and they thought they were hiring a “healthy” individual. Later, the company denied the employee a reasonable accommodation by telling her that she could not miss any more work until her probation expired; removed her from the work schedule’ placed her on an involuntarily leave of absence; and discharged her because of her disability and in retaliation for her complaints about discriminatory comments made about her disability. Valley Tool took these actions despite having a letter from the employee’s doctor stating she lacked any medical restrictions and was cleared to work without any limitations.

Further, the EEOC said, another employee who complained about the manager’s comment made about her colleague’s blood disorder and other workplace issues was denied wage increases after she filed a discrimination charge. Valley Tool told this employee and the EEOC that the company denied her the wage increases because she had filed the discrimination charge and the company had to spend money responding to it.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which makes it unlawful to discriminate against employees by denying them a reasonable accommodation, subjecting them to different terms and conditions of employment, and terminating them because of a disability. The ADA also makes it unlawful to retaliate against an employee for her complaints about perceived discriminatory comments.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 also prohibits retaliation against employees because they file a discrimination charge.

The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Valley Tool, Civil Action No. 3:19-cv-00140 and EEOC v. Valley Tool, Civil Action No. 3:19-cv-00141) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Mississippi, Oxford Division, after first attempting to reach a voluntary pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Candace Macon Williams of the agency’s Memphis District Office investigated the discrimination charges.

“The ADA has been in effect for almost 30 years,” said EEOC District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas. “After all this time, employers must know that their employees have a right to a reasonable accommodation absent undue hardship. Further, if an employer punishes an employee for complaining about perceived discrimination, it’s only making a bad situation worse. The EEOC will continue to fight such misconduct.”