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EEOC Claims Wrongful Termination Where Employer Refused To Accommodate Employee’s Disability

Conceptual photo showing printed text Wrongful termination

On March 5, 2020, 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 Hitachi Automotive Systems, Inc. (Hitachi). On August 29, 2019, the EEOC filed the lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Hitachi Automotive Systems, Inc., Case No. 1:19-cv-03887, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia after attempting to remedy the alleged unlawful employment practices through its lawfully mandated conciliation process.  Unable to secure from Hitachi an acceptable conciliation agreement, the EEOC moved forward with attempting to remedy the alleged unlawful employment practices through litigation.  In the Consent Decree, which was filed with the district court on March 4, 2020, Hitachi agreed to pay $85,000 to resolve the disability discrimination lawsuit.

The EEOC brought 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 Hitachi, Misti Huff King (King).  Under the ADA, employees are protected from discrimination on the basis of disability.  The ADA also requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for employees with a disability.  The EEOC claims that Hitachi discriminated against King by denying her a reasonable accommodation for her disability and rescinding a permanent job offer because of her disability in violation of the ADA.  In this article, our Columbia County, Florida wrongful termination lawyers explain the EEOC’s allegations against Hitachi. 

Employee Requests Accommodation For Disability

Hitachi is an automotive parts supplier. In May 2017, King was assigned by a staffing agency, Express Employment Professionals (Express), to work for Hitachi as a temporary employee. King worked as an assembly operator at Hitachi’s plant in Monroe, Georgia. The EEOC claims that King is disabled within the meaning of the ADA based on having an overactive bladder. King’s bladder condition requires her to take frequent restroom breaks.

Assembly operators at the Monroe plant were given two breaks per shift—one break lasted 15 minutes and other break lasted 30 minutes. At the start of her employment, King informed Express and Hitachi that she required additional restroom breaks because of her overactive bladder. Specifically, King told her supervisor at Hitachi that she required additional restroom breaks as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. In September 2017, King sent a letter from her doctor to her supervisor at Hitachi and the Human Resources Manager stating that she required additional restroom breaks due to her overactive bladder. King did not receive a response to her request for an accommodation, but her immediate supervisors allowed her to take additional two to three restroom breaks each shift.

Employee Claims Wrongful Termination

Based on King’s work performance during her initial six-month probationary period, Hitachi offered her a full-time, permanent position on January 6, 2018. King accepted the offer but was required to undergo a background check and medical evaluation. King’s medical evaluation was conducted by a Hitachi-designated doctor. During the medical evaluation, King disclosed her overactive bladder condition and told the doctor that she required additional restroom breaks. The doctor determined that King was able to perform the essential functions of an assembly operator despite her requested accommodation of additional restroom breaks.

On February 13, 2018, the Human Resources Manager told King that she was not permitted to return to work until she provided another doctor’s note supporting her request for an accommodation. On February 16, 2018, King submitted another letter from her doctor stating that she needed to take a restroom break every two hours. Still, Hitachi determined that King’s submission was insufficient and required King to obtain a specific restroom schedule from her doctor.

On March 8, 2018, Hitachi rescinded its offer of employment stating that King was “not able, with reasonable accommodation, to perform the essential job functions” of an assembly operator. As King had “demonstrated her ability to perform well in the position based on the positive performance evaluation she received,” the EEOC claims that King was able to perform the essential functions of an assembly operator with a reasonable accommodation for her disability. The EEOC further claims that although “there were multiple employees who took frequent restroom breaks, sometimes more breaks than King,” Hitachi did not terminate their employment. The EEOC maintains that Hitachi terminated King’s employment based on her disability and need for an accommodation.

Fighting Against Wrongful Termination

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States responsible for interpreting and enforcing federal labor laws prohibiting employment discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In enforcing the federal labor laws, the EEOC is granted the authority under federal law to file lawsuits on behalf of employees who have been wrongfully terminated. In a press release issued by the EEOC on March 5, 2020 regarding the case, the Director for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, Darrell E. Graham, stated that the “EEOC’s mission to end discrimination in the workplace is served not only by Hitachi’s compensating Ms. King, but by the company’s agreement to revise its policies and take steps to ensure future compliance with the ADA.”

Consult With Lake City Wrongful Discharge Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Columbia County, Florida wrongful termination attorneys are dedicated to fighting for employee rights. If you have been wrongfully terminated or have questions about your employee rights under the federal labor laws, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Lake City, Florida wrongful termination lawyers. Our employees’ rights law firm takes 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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