The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) reported a Modesto thrift store settled a suit with a former employee for $50,000.
The disability discrimination suit was filed by the EEOC when an employer fired an employee who suffered epileptic seizures. The violation occurred when the owner terminated the employee for an inability to complete job duties based solely on the judgment of owners and managers.
Details of Modesto Thrift Store’s Alleged Violation
The employee, hired to stock the store, was fired after having three minor seizures while working. There are no allegations in the suit of injuries to the fired employee, other workers or patrons of the store.
The EEOC filed suit against the store alleging the owner was required to request medical documentation regarding his ability to perform stocking duties. Instead, managers relied on their own judgment to decide if the employee was a danger both to himself and others.
Violations of the Americans With Disabilities Act
Treating employees unfavorably based on a disability is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act. If an employee has a disability, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations unless doing so causes a significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
Employers are allowed to prohibit an epileptic employee from working if the individual is a direct threat to others. This is established by considering the following:
- Duration of the task
- Nature and severity of potential harm
- Likelihood that harm will occur
- Imminence of potential harm
According to the EEOC, the harm must be serious and likely – not remote or speculative. In this case, the employee suffered three mild seizures and no injuries were reported. As a result, an argument that he posed a direct threat would likely fail.
The protections offered by the ADA are broad, and potential employer violations should be treated seriously. Violations can result in compensation for lost wages and pain and suffering awards. If you or a loved one were discriminated against based on a disability, it is important to contact an experienced disability discrimination lawyer to ensure all legal rights are protected.