The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

PRESS RELEASE
8-27-09

OREGON FUNERAL CHAPEL SUED FOR DISABILITY BIAS

Secretary in Wheelchair Fired for Projecting Wrong Image, EEOC Charges

PORTLAND, Ore. – The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today filed a discrimination lawsuit under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) against Newberg, Ore.-based funeral services company S.C.C. Inc. for refusing to provide a reasonable accommodation to a secretary with a prosthetic leg and instead firing her because she needed to use a wheelchair.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Barbara Jackson successfully worked at Attrell’s Newberg Funeral Chapel as a secretary for a year and nine months while using a prosthetic leg. However, when her prosthetic leg failed, Jackson was required to use a wheelchair. Her employer refused to allow Jackson to return to work and eventually terminated her, claiming that she wouldn't be able to carry out her duties in a wheelchair and that having an employee in a wheelchair would upset customers attending funeral services.

Jackson commented, “I was devastated when I was fired. I felt worthless. I’ve always really enjoyed helping people, and when the company said I could no longer do so, it crushed me.”

The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon (09-CV-1009-HU) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The EEOC seeks monetary damages on behalf of Jackson, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the work site and other injunctive relief.

EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, “Firing a hard-working individual like Ms. Jackson simply because she required the use of a wheelchair to do her job is inexcusable, and a true loss for all involved. The stereotyping this company engaged in is exactly the type of behavior the ADA is meant to prevent.”

Michael Baldonado, director of the EEOC San Francisco District Office, stated, “Barbara Jackson was a capable and diligent employee who proved her worth over the course of a year and nine months. Disability does not mean inability. Every individual deserves the freedom to compete in the workplace on a fair and level playing field.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Additional information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.


This page was last modified on August 27, 2009.

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