Senior Engineer Forced to Resign Despite Being Released to Return from Medical Leave, Federal Agency Charged
DALLAS - L-3 Communications, a large defense contractor with facilities in Texas, violated federal law when it refused to allow a senior manufacturing engineer to return to work following leave related to depression and subsequently forced him to resign because of his disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, the engineer worked successfully for L-3 Communications after being hired in 2008. In late 2014, he suffered two major depressive episodes at work and went on medical leave. After receiving treatment, he was returned to work with a full release from his physician, but L-3 Communications insisted that he submit to a fitness-for-duty exam before returning to his position. The psychologist who conducted the exam then indicated that he could safely resume work with accommodations such as additional training and feedback, and recommended that the best long-term outcome would be to return him to a different position. The engineer also asked whether there was a reasonable accommodation that the company could provide that would allow him to return to work. The company failed to consider or provide any reasonable accommodation, and instead gave him the ultimatum that he would either need to resign or be fired.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for known disabilities. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Dallas Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. L-3 Communications, Civil Action No. 3:17-cv-00538-N), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the victim, as well as injunctive relief.
"Despite being cleared by both his treating physician and the psychologist who administered the fitness-for-duty exam, L-3 refused to let the Charging Party return to work and forced him to resign," said EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Meaghan L. Shepard. "This constitutes disability discrimination in violation of federal law."
One of the six national priorities identified by the Commission's Strategic Enforcement Plan is for the Commission to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including issues involving hiring barriers and the ADA.
"L-3 Communications forced the Charging Party out rather than returning him to a position where he could continue to be successful and productive for the company," said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert A. Canino. "Now his skills and assets will benefit other employers whose leave and accommodation policies do not deny him the opportunity to contribute to their success, and L-3 has been sued for disability discrimination. This is a lose-lose situation for them."
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.