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Worker Wrongfully Terminated Because Company Regarded Him As Disabled EEOC Lawsuit Charges

Business concept about Disability Discrimination with phrase on the sheet.

Having represented employees in wrongful termination cases in Florida courts for more than two decades, our Ocala, Florida wrongful termination attorneys know that employees are frequently terminated after an employer learns they have a medical condition. Far too often, our Marion County, Florida wrongful termination lawyers have learned, employers mistakenly believe that employees suffering from a medical condition are incapable of performing their jobs and summarily terminate their employment. In this article, our Ocala, Florida wrongful termination attorneys explain how a recent disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) illustrates that the federal anti-discrimination laws protect employees when an employer regards them as incapable of performing their job because of a medical condition.

Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

In a press release issued on May 7, 2021, the EEOC announced that it has entered into a Consent Decree settling a disability discrimination lawsuit against BlueLinx Corp., which operates as Lake States Lumber, Inc. (Lake States). On June 12, 2019, the EEOC filed the disability discrimination lawsuit, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Bluelinx Corp., d/b/a Lake States Lumber, Inc., Case No. 19-cv-01549, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota. In the Consent Decree, which was executed by U.S. District Court Judge Nancy E. Brasel on May 7, 2021, Lake States agreed to pay $100,000 to resolve the disability discrimination lawsuit.

Unlawful Wrongful Termination

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 Lake States, Eric Stauber (Stauber). Under the ADA, employers are forbidden from discriminating against employees on the basis of disability. The ADA’s protection against disability discrimination is not restricted to employees who have an actual disability. Rather, the ADA’s protection against disability discrimination extends to employees who an employer regards or perceives as disabled. Thus, even if an employee does not have an actual disability, the ADA still protects the employee from disability discrimination when an employer regards or perceives the employee as having a disability.

Many cases involving the “regarded as disabled” prong of the ADA involve circumstances where an employee has a medical condition that required the employee to miss time from work. When the employee is forced to time from work because of the medical condition, the employer learns of the employee’s medical condition. After acquiring knowledge that the employee has a medical condition, the employer forms the medically unsubstantiated belief that the employee’s medical condition substantially impairs the employee’s ability to perform his or her job. Based on this medically unsubstantiated belief, the employer terminates the employee. In terminating the employee based on the medically unsubstantiated belief that the employee cannot do his or her job because of the medical condition, the employer has wrongfully terminated the employee in violation of the ADA because it regarded or perceived the employee as disabled. Thus, the employee has been discriminated against on the basis of disability even though the employee is not, in fact, disabled.

The EEOC claims that Lake States discriminated against Stauber in violation of the ADA by terminating his employment because it regarded or perceived him as disabled.

EEOC Claims Wrongful Termination

Lake States is a manufacturer and distributor of lumber and wood products. From 2008 until February 2016, Stauber worked for Lake States at its facility in Duluth, Minnesota. On November 3, 2016, Stauber had heart surgery. On February 10, 2016, Stauber was released by his doctor to return to work with no restrictions. Stauber provided Lake States with a note from his doctor indicating that he could work without restrictions. When Stauber returned to work on February 10, 2016, Lake States did not reinstate Stauber to his position as a forklift operator. Instead, Lake States placed Stauber in a different position and imposed restrictions on his work. On February 19, 2016, Lake States’ management claimed Stauber could not perform any jobs at the facility, and informed Stauber that he could not continue working for the company until he was “100% healthy.” In refusing to restore Stauber to employment despite his ability to return to work without restrictions, the EEOC claims that Lakes States terminated Stuaber’s employment because Lake States regarded him as disabled.

Lawyers For Wrongful Termination

The EEOC, which is an administrative agency of the federal government, is responsible for interpreting and enforcing the federal labor laws making discrimination, harassment, and retaliation unlawful employment practices. In seeking to preserve and enforce employee rights, the EEOC brings lawsuits in federal court on behalf of employees who have been wrongfully terminated in violation of the federal labor laws.

In a press release issued by the EEOC on May 7, 2021 regarding the case, a regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, Gregory Gochanour, explained that “it is an unfortunate reality that even when an employee who has been on disability leave is able to return to work without any restrictions at all, many employers continue to regard that employee as unable to work in the same capacity as prior to that leave.” In commenting on the case, the Director of the EEOC’s Chicago District Office, Julianne Bowman, observed that “this type of discrimination deprives people of employment opportunities because of myths and stereotypes about disability, and employers should know that it is illegal under federal law.”

Ocala, FL Wrongful Termination Attorneys

Based in Ocala, Florida and representing employees throughout Central Florida, our Marion County, Florida wrongful termination lawyers have dedicated their practice to fighting for the rights of wrongful termination victims. If you have been wrongfully terminated or have questions about your rights a wrongful termination victim, please contact our office for a free consultation with our Ocala, Florida wrongful termination attorneys. 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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