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EEOC Employment Discrimination Case Claims Disabled Worker Unlawfully Denied Accommodation & Demoted

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For more than twenty years, our Ocala, Florida employment discrimination attorneys have fought for the rights of Florida employees who have been subjected to unlawful discriminatory employment practices. Having litigated employment discrimination cases in Florida courts for more than two decades, our Marion County, Florida employment discrimination lawyers know that employers often refuse to make modifications or adjustments to the work environment for disabled employees. In refusing to do so, employers also refuse to engage in an interactive process with disabled employees who request a reasonable accommodation for their disability. In this article, our Ocala, Florida employment discrimination attorneys explain how a disability discrimination lawsuit recently settled by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) shows that employers not only have an obligation under federal employment discrimination law to reasonably accommodate disabled employees, they are also required by federal employment discrimination law to help disabled employees determine the appropriate accommodation so that they can continue working in the position held or desired.

Employment Discrimination Lawsuit

On May 27, 2021, the EEOC issued a press release announcing that it has entered into a Consent Decree resolving a disability discrimination lawsuit against Meijer, Inc. (Meijer). On August 9, 2019, the EEOC filed the disability discrimination lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Meijer, Inc., Case No. 19-cv-12332, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan.  In the Consent Decree, which was executed by U.S. District Court Judge Judith E. Levy on May 27, 2021, Meijer agreed to pay $30,000 to resolve the disability discrimination case.

Employment Discrimination Victims’ Rights

The EEOC brought the disability discrimination lawsuit pursuant to the Americans with Disabilities Act, as amended by the ADA Amendment Act of 2008, on behalf of an employee of Meijer, Gary Simpkins (Simpkins). Under the ADA, employers are forbidden from discriminating against employees on the basis of disability. The ADA’s protection against disability discrimination extends to all aspects of employment, including hiring, pay, demotion, promotion, discipline, and discharge.

In order to preserve and protect the rights of disabled employees, the ADA also requires employers to reasonable accommodate employees with a disability. Depending on the facts and circumstances of a particular case, reasonable accommodations can include job modification, transfer to an open position, part-time work, and a leave of absence. Once an employee requests a reasonable accommodation for his or her disability, the ADA also mandates that employers engage in an interactive process with the employee to determine the appropriate accommodation. Thus, employers have an affirmative obligation under the ADA to help disabled workers to determine the appropriate accommodation so they can continue working in the position held or desired. Under the ADA, an employer engages in unlawful disability discrimination when it fails or refuses to reasonable accommodate an employee with a disability.

The EEOC claims that Meijer discriminated against Simpkins in violation of the ADA by failing to accommodate his disability and demoting him because of his disability.

Employee Claims Unlawful Demotion

Meijer is a grocery store based in Grand Rapids, Michigan with stores throughout the Midwest. The EEOC claims that Simpkins is a person with a disability within the meaning of the ADA based on his medical condition of proriatic arthritis. In 1992, Simpkins began working for Meijer at its store in Commerce Township, Michigan. In the five years prior to November 2016, Simpkins worked primarily as a cashier at the self-service section where customers ring up their own purchases. During that five-year period, Simpkins worked in the self-service section because of his proriatic arthritis.

In November 2016, Simpkins was assigned a new supervisor. The new supervisor removed Simpkins from the self-service section, claiming that it was neither efficient nor fair to other employees to allow Simpkins to remain in the self-service section. In January and February 2017, Simpkins submitted two doctor’s notes to management explaining his proriatic arthritis and physical limitations.

In March 2017, Simpkins met with management regarding his job duties and physical limitations. During this meeting, Meijer proposed that Simpkins be re-assigned to a part-time greeter position, which involved a cut in hourly pay as well as a loss of benefits. To avoid the economic consequences of part-time status, Simpkins proposed several alternative accommodations, including working in the gas station and going to an open position at a different Meijer store. Meijer rejected Simpkins’ proposed accommodations and told Simpkins that his employment would be terminated if he did not accept the part-time greeter position. Facing termination, Simpkins was compelled to accept demotion to a part-time greeter position.

Fighting For Employment Discrimination Victims

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the federal government responsible for interpreting and enforcing the federal employment laws prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In order to preserve and protect employee rights under federal employment discrimination law, the EEOC files lawsuits in federal court on behalf of employees who have endured unlawful employment discrimination, including victims of unlawful disability discrimination. In a press release issued by the EEOC on May 27, 2021 regarding the case, an attorney for the EEOC’s Detroit Field Office, Dale Price, explained that “the ADA is clear: an employer must provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability and cannot demote the employee because of that disability.”

Ocala, FL Employment Discrimination Lawyers

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing workers in counties throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida employment discrimination attorneys have represented employment discrimination victims for more than two decades. If you have experienced discrimination in the workplace or have questions about your rights as an employment discrimination victim, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida employment discrimination lawyers. Our employment and labor law attorneys take employment discrimination 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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