Amputee Fired Because of Disability, Federal Agency Charged
SEATTLE – A Newberg, Ore., funeral chapel will pay $62,500 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Attrell’s Newberg Funeral Chapel violated federal law when it refused to allow Barbara Jackson, an amputee who had successfully worked for the company for a year and nine months, to continue working as a secretary once she required the use of a wheelchair. Attrell’s claimed that Jackson could not carry out the duties of the secretarial position if she could not walk, and noted that having an employee in a wheelchair might make their grieving clients feel bad. After Attrell’s fired her, Jackson suffered financial hardship due to difficulties in finding a comparable job, the EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (EEOC and Jackson v. S.C.C., Inc., dba Attrell’s Newberg Funeral Chapel; cv-09-1009-HU) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. After the EEOC filed the lawsuit on her behalf, Jackson retained private attorney Larry Linder and intervened in the case. Jackson’s charge of discrimination was investigated by EEOC investigator Rick Thomas.
In addition to the monetary settlement, Attrell’s agreed to implement anti-discrimination policies and procedures in its workplace. The company also agreed to provide training on the ADA and reasonable accommodations to all its management and non-management employees its Newberg facility. Attrell’s will also provide periodic reports to EEOC on its compliance with the terms of the consent decree.
“Attrell’s fired Ms. Jackson based on its own stereotypes about what a person who uses a wheelchair can and cannot do,” said A. Luis Lucero, Jr., director of the EEOC’s Seattle Field Office. “Ms. Jackson was not even given the opportunity to demonstrate her abilities to carry out her work functions using a chair. Such stereotyping harms people with disabilities, but it also hurts employers because they lose out on talented and qualified employees.”
EEOC San Francisco Regional Attorney William R. Tamayo said, “Let this be a lesson to other employers: You must engage in the interactive process with employees who request accommodations. Ms. Jackson’s request was reasonable. Allowing her to continue working from her wheelchair would have benefited Ms. Jackson, Attrell’s, and the many clients who benefited from Ms. Jackson’s kind and diligent manner in attending to funeral arrangements. Instead, Ms. Jackson has been unemployed for over a year and has had to endure humiliation.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The EEOC Seattle Field Office’s jurisdiction includes Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and Washington. Further information about the EEOC including its guidance on employees with disabilities is available on its website at http://www.eeoc.gov.