U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Pantego Utility Failed to Provide Employee with Reasonable Accommodation, Federal Agency Charges
RALEIGH, N.C. – The Tideland Electric Membership Corporation (Tideland EMC), a Pantego, N.C.-based utility company, unlawfully failed to accommodate a disabled employee and then fired him because of his disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a disability discrimination lawsuit it filed today.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, since 2002, Jeffrey Erdman has suffered from a chronic pain condition that substantially limits the functioning of his neurological system. Erdman began working for Tideland EMC as an apprentice lineman in February 2009. According to the EEOC’s suit, around May 2009, Tideland EMC learned that Erdman was taking a legally prescribed narcotic medication in order to manage his chronic pain condition. Upon learning about Erdman’s medication, the EEOC said, Tideland EMC terminated Erdman without giving him a reasonable amount of time to change his medication regimen in order to keep his employment.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees and applicants from discrimination based on their disabilities. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Tideland Electric Membership Corporation; Civil Action No.4:11-CV-00108-BO) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages as well as injunctive relief.
“Employers must attempt to work with disabled employees who need an accommodation to perform the essential functions of their jobs,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District, which includes the EEOC’s Raleigh Area Office, where the charge was filed. “Federal law requires that they provide disabled employees who are ready, willing, and able to work with reasonable accommodations. The EEOC will continue to vigorously prosecute cases where the employer fails to do so.”
Tideland EMC provides electrical services to Date, Hyde, Beaufort, Washington, Pamlico and Craven counties of North Carolina and employs approximately 100 people.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.