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Employee Wrongfully Fired After Being Denied Medical Leave For Her Disability EEOC Lawsuit Claims

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In a press release issued on January 13, 2021, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced that it has filed a disability discrimination lawsuit against Treehouse Foods, Inc. and Treehouse Foods Private Brands, Inc. (Treehouse). On January 13, 2021, the EEOC filed the lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Treehouse Foods, Inc. and Treehouse Foods Private Brands, Inc., Case No. 1:21-cv-0204, in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia. Prior to initiating legal proceedings in federal court, the EEOC endeavored to resolve the alleged unlawful employment practices through its statutorily required conciliation process. Unable to reach an acceptable settlement through conciliation efforts, the EEOC moved forward with attempting to remedy the alleged unlawful employment practices through litigation.

Rights For Wrongful Termination Victims

The EEOC has brought the disability discrimination lawsuit under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended by the ADA Amendment Act of 2008, on behalf of a former employee of Treehouse, Deborah Turner (Turner). The ADA makes discrimination on the basis of disability an unlawful employment practice. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide disabled employees with a reasonable accommodation for their disability. The ADA specifically states that reasonable accommodations can include job restructuring, part-time work, and reassignment to a vacant position. Courts have also ruled that a leave of absence or a leave extension for medical treatment for a disability can constitute a reasonable accommodation under the ADA. When an employee is denied a reasonable accommodation, and the failure to reasonably accommodate the employee’s results in the employee’s termination, the employee has been unlawfully fired in violation of the ADA.

The EEOC claims that Treehouse discriminated against Turner by denying her a reasonable accommodation for her disabilities and discharging her because of her disabilities in violation of the ADA.

Worker Claims Wrongfully Fired

Treehouse is a food products manufacturer. Turner worked as a machine operator at Treehouse’s plant in Forest Park, Georgia. The EEOC claims that Turner has disabilities within the meaning of the ADA based on her medical conditions of high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic bronchitis, a bleeding ulcer, and chronic pain. Since 2004 until her termination in 2019, Turner used intermittent leave under the Family Medical Leave Act for treatment of her disabilities.

On five or more occasions from July 2018 through May 1, 2019, according to the EEOC, Treehouse improperly penalized Turner for absences relating to her disabilities and treatment of her disabilities. In early April 2019, Turner received a verbal and then a written warning for allegedly violating Treehouse’s attendance policy. After each warning was issued, Turner explained to Treehouse that she was not in violation of the company’s attendance policy because many of her absences were related to treatment of her disabilities. In late April 2019, Turner was hospitalized because of her disabilities. Treehouse assessed Turner another attendance infraction point for missing work while she was hospitalized. On May 2, 2019, Turner returned to work following her hospitalization.

On May 7, 2019, Treehouse terminated Turner’s nineteen-year employment for violation of its attendance policy. During the termination meeting, Turner again explained to human resources, her supervisor, and the union steward that her record of attendance policy violations was incorrect because she had been absent for treatment relating to her disabilities.

Fighting For Wrongful Termination Victims

The EEOC is the administrative agency of the United States charged by federal law with interpreting and enforcing federal employment and labor laws prohibiting discrimination, harassment, and retaliation. In enforcing employees’ rights under the federal employment and labor laws, the EEOC files lawsuits on behalf of employment discrimination victims, including disability discrimination victims. In a press release issued by the EEOC on January 13, 2021 regarding the case, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, Marcus G. Keegan, explained that the “use of intermittent medical leave for treatment of a disability is widely recognized as a reasonable accommodation.” “The request for an accommodation could easily have been granted here,” Mr. Keegan added, “but Treehouse Foods fired a 19-year employee on the verge of retirement instead of engaging in the interactive process and accommodating her.” “Such conduct,” Mr. Keegan observed, “is unethical and unlawful.” In commenting on the case, the Director of the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office, Darrell Graham, stated that the “EEOC is committed to ending disability discrimination,” and “an employee should not be forced to risk termination for seeking intermittent leave as a reasonable accommodation for her disability under the ADA.”

Wrongful Termination Lawyers In Ocala, FL

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida attorneys for wrongful termination victims have litigated employment and labor law cases in Florida courts for more than twenty years. If you have been wrongfully fired or have questions about your rights as a wrongful termination victim, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida lawyers for wrongful termination victims. Our civil 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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