EEOC Lawsuit Alleged DuPriest and Sons Laid Off Worker Due to His Need For Dialysis
DALLAS - DuPriest and Sons Holding and other related entities that owned and operated a Dallas silk-screening company have agreed to pay a long-term former employee $24,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. The EEOC had charged that DuPriest violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by selecting an employee for layoff because of a recent hospitalization for diabetes and kidney failure.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, after 38 years on the job, Alfred Garza was informed of his selection for termination soon after he informed the employer that he would be needing dialysis in the near future. A member of management told him that the company could "no longer afford" him. In an atmosphere where another manager in the family-run company used to kick Garza's cane as a "joke," Garza realized that his declining health was being used against him when the choices were made for layoff.
Removing a qualified employee from the workplace because of a disability violates the ADA. The EEOC investigated the case and then filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas (Civil Action No. 3:11-CV-2525-G), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
"I am 'old school,'" said Garza, who lives near the company's former Oak Cliff location. "I got up every day at 5 a.m. and went to work. Even if I was sick I would still go. Some nights I would come home exhausted and the night supervisor would call me with questions. If he needed help, I would go back to work to help him. After my selection for layoff, I went through a mourning period. Days would go by in which I wouldn't talk to my wife or my granddaughter. There were also days in which I couldn't eat."
In addition to the monetary relief for Garza, approved by the court in a consent decree, the company, which has been sold, has agreed to provide training to management regarding the ADA in the event it goes back into business under the same or a different name, and the new company will be enjoined from discriminating against employees based on their disability.
"As a former Marine, Mr. Garza was tough," said Toby Wosk Costas, supervisory trial attorney for the Dallas District Office. "But who could be prepared to report to work in the morning, be led to the loading dock, and be told there that you were picked for layoff, after almost four decades on the job? He immediately regretted informing management about his eventual need for dialysis, but it was too late."
Robert A. Canino, regional attorney for the EEOC's Dallas District Office, said, "We are glad that after all Mr. Garza had given of himself to the employer, he didn't just decide to give up when the company tried to bring his tenure to a premature close. The ADA isn't just about hiring qualified persons who may have some limiting health conditions, it is also about retaining and accommodating employees who may develop impairments while working, and who can still perform their jobs."
Janet Elizondo, district director for the Dallas District Office, added, "We feel satisfied, based on the terms of this settlement, that if the company decides to return to operations, it will engage in a more constructive approach to avoiding discrimination against persons with disabilities. That is our dual objective - to seek a remedy for the individual harmed, and to prevent recurrence in the future."
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.