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Central Florida Employee’s Wrongful Termination Lawsuit Resolved By EEOC

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On February 1, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a press release announcing that it has entered into a Consent Decree to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit against Pirtek USA, LLC (Pirtek). On September 26, 2019, the EEOC filed the disability discrimination lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Pirtek USA, LLC, Case No. 6:19-cv-01853, in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida. Before bringing the employment discrimination lawsuit in federal court, the EEOC first attempted to correct the alleged discriminatory employment practices through its statutorily mandated conciliation process. Unable to resolve the case through conciliation efforts, the EEOC elected to remedy the alleged discriminatory employment practices through litigation in federal court.

In the Consent Decree, which was entered by U.S. District Court Judge Gregory J. Kelly on January 29, 2021, Pirtek agreed to pay $85,000 to resolve the disability discrimination lawsuit. In this article, our Sumter County, Florida wrongful termination lawyers explain the EEOC’s allegations of unlawful discriminatory employment practices against Pirtek.

Wrongful Termination Victims’ Rights

The EEOC filed the disability discrimination lawsuit pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended by the ADA Amendment Act of 2008, on behalf of a former employee of Pirtek, Michael Rossiello (Rossiello). The ADA makes discrimination on the basis of disability an unlawful discriminatory employment practice. The ADA’s protection against disability discrimination is not not limited to employees who have an actual disability or a record of a disability. Rather, the ADA extends protection to employees who are “regarded” or “perceived” as disabled by an employer. Thus, even if an employee does not have an actual disability or a record of a disability, the employee is still protected from disability discrimination by the ADA if the employer regards or perceives the employee has disabled.

The EEOC alleges that Pirtek regarded Rossiello as disabled and subjected him to discrimination based on disability by terminating his employment.

Worker Claims Wrongful Termination

Pirtek is a fluid power system company in Rockledge, Florida. In January 2006, Rossiello began working for Pirtek as a warehouse specialist. Rossiello remained in this position until he was fired on March 4, 2016. As a warehouse specialist, Rossiello was responsible for cutting hydraulic hoses and transporting them within Pirtek’s warehouse facility.

On December 26, 2015, Rossiello became seriously ill and was taken to the emergency room. Rossiello was admitted to the hospital where he was diagnosed with pancreatitis, acute respiratory distress syndrome, and pneumonia. Rossiello was on a respirator and in an induced coma for approximately seventeen days. Rossiello remained hospitalized until February 3, 2016. During Rossiello’s hospitalization, Pirtek was periodically updated regarding Rossiello’s condition.

Worker Told He Was A “Liability”

In February 2016, Rossiello received a call from Pirtek’s Supply Chain Manager, O’Hara, who oversaw all warehouse staff. Rossiello advised O’Haraa that he was feeling better and able to return to work on March 1, 2016. The EEOC maintains that although Rossiello was cleared to return to work without restrictions on March 1, 2016, Pirtek did not allow him to return to work because the company regarded him as disabled. Instead of allowing Rossiello to return to work on March 1, 2016, O’Hara directed Rossiello to stay on leave and exhaust the balance of his paid short-term disability. At the time, Rossiello had some three weeks of paid short-term disability leave remaining. Based on his conversation with O’Hara, Rossiello expected that he would be allowed to return to work on March 16, 2016, when his paid short-term disability leave expired.

Instead of allowing Rossiello to return to work upon expiration of his short-term disability leave, O’Hara fired Rossiello on March 4, 2016. When advising him of the termination, O’Hara told Rossiello that Pirtek did not believe that Rossiello could do the job that he had been hired to do. Rossiello told O’Hara that he could do his job and tried to provide O’Hara with his doctor’s letter clearing him to return to work without restrictions. O’Hara, the EEOC contends, rejected the letter. Rossiello further offered that, even if O’Hara did not believe he could do the job, he could be assigned to other tasks. O’Hara allegedly rejected Rossiello’s proposal and stated that Pirtek was afraid that Rossiello would get injured on the job and receive workers’ compensation. O’Hara further stated, according to the EEOC, that Rossiello was a “liability.”

Attorneys For Wrongful Termination Victims

The EEOC, which is an administrative agency of the federal government, is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the federal anti-discrimination laws, including the ADA. In seeking to eliminate discrimination from the American workplace and vindicate employee rights, the EEOC brings federal court lawsuits on behalf of employment discrimination victims, including disability discrimination victims. In a press release issued by the EEOC on February 1, 2021 regarding the case, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s Miami District Office, Robert Weisberg, stated that “too often employers rely upon unfounded assumptions about an employee’s ability to do the job, rather than the results of a medical examination.” In commenting on the case, the Acting Director of the EEOC’s Miami District Office, Bradley Anderson, explained that “firing individuals because of a perceived disability is a long-standing violation of federal law.” “This resolution,” Mr. Anderson added, “brings the EEOC closer to achieving its statutory mission of eliminating disability discrimination from the American workplace.”

Wrongful Discharge Lawyers In Wildwood, FL

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Sumter County, Florida wrongful termination attorneys have fought for the rights of Florida employees for more than two decades. If you have been wrongfully terminated or have questions about your rights as a wrongful termination victim under the federal employment laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Wildwood, Florida wrongful termination lawyers. Our employment and labor law attorneys take wrongful termination cases on a contingency fee basis. This means that there are no attorney’s fees incurred unless there is a recovery and our attorney’s fees come solely from the monetary award that you recover.

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