Federal Agency Wins $109,000 for Employee With Epilepsy Discriminated Against in Violation of Federal Law
DENVER - A unanimous jury in federal court in Denver yesterday found for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in its disability discrimination lawsuit against Western Trading Company, Inc., an Army-Navy surplus company in metro Denver (EEOC v. Western Trading Co., Inc., Case #10-cv-02387-MJM-MJW). The jury awarded $109,000 for Tyler Riley, an employee who was fired because of his seizure disorder.
According to the EEOC's complaint, Riley worked for Western Trading less than a week before having a seizure on the job. The EEOC alleges that Riley was allowed to return to work after providing three separate releases from his doctors, but was then sent home again when Western Trading learned of a second seizure during his off-duty hours. The lawsuit alleged that despite additional information from Riley's doctors, he was never allowed to return to work. Based on these allegations, EEOC asserted that Western Trading failed to make reasonable accommodations for Riley and terminated him in violation of the ADA. The EEOC also alleged that Western Trading unlawfully kept Riley's medical records with his other personnel information.
Such alleged conduct violates Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The federal jury found that Western Trading violated federal anti-discrimination laws by terminating Tyler Riley because of his disability, epilepsy. The jury awarded Riley $24,000 in back pay, $20,000 in compensation for emotional distress and $65,000 in punitive damages. The EEOC is also seeking injunctive relief prohibiting further discrimination by the employer and mandating corrective action. Post-trial motions for injunctive relief will be filed with the court in the coming days.
"The ADA ensures that persons with epilepsy and other disabilities will have fair employment opportunities that are not impeded by 'myths, fears, and stereotypes," said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez. "The EEOC always stands willing to resolve matters informally, but, when necessary, will proceed to trial."
EEOC Trial Attorney Sean Ratliff, one of the lawyers from the EEOC who tried the case in federal court, said, "We laud Mr. Riley's courage in standing up and opposing this unfair treatment and we are proud to have helped him achieve justice."
EEOC Denver Field Director Nancy Sienko added, "Our investigation into this charge revealed that Mr. Riley provided his employer with several assurances that it was safe for him to work. An employer cannot simply disregard medical providers' statements in favor of unsupported conjecture or speculation."
Further information about the EEOC and its power to enforce federal workforce discrimination laws is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov