Grand Rapids Dental Company Refused Woman Reasonable Accommodation for Osteoarthritis, Federal Agency Charged
DETROIT – A Grand Rapids, Mich., manufacturer of dental products violated federal law by firing an employee because of her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
The lawsuit (EEOC v. Ranir, LLC,Case No.1:10CV965) filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan, alleges that Judith Fuller worked successfully for Ranir as an assembler for more than 12 years. In February 2008, Fuller returned to work following a medical leave of absence related to osteoarthritis. As a result of her arthritis, Fuller had trouble standing for long periods of time or walking long distances.
In an effort to perform her job duties, Fuller requested the reasonable accommodation of being permitted to use a four-prong cane in order to travel the long distance from the time clock to her work station. Ranir flatly refused. In March, Fuller was forced to take leave because of the pain caused by unassisted walking, which worsened her medical condition. Ranir fired her a week later, citing an exhaustion of leave time.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from terminating employees because of such medical conditions. The agency seeks to recover monetary compensation for Fuller in the form of back pay and compensatory damages for emotional distress, as well as punitive damages. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement.
“Ms. Fuller had already proven her worth to the employer, but the management chose to terminate a long-term employee despite a proposed accommodation that would have permitted her to continue working,” said EEOC Indianapolis Regional Attorney Laurie Young, whose jurisdiction includes Michigan. “The EEOC will pursue vigorously violations of the ADA when employers shirk their responsibilities.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing the nation’s laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.