U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Disabled Employee Fired After Parking in Handicap Space
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) today filed suit against Sysco Oklahoma LLC, a major commercial food distributor, for making unlawful inquiries into the existence, nature and severity of an employee’s disability, scoliosis, and then firing her because of that disability.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Amanda Thompson, who worked for Sysco as a customer relations expert from December 2008, was observed parking in one of the employer’s unreserved handicap parking spaces in February 2009. The same day, Sysco demanded Thompson provide Sysco a physician’s full medical release, notwithstanding the fact that Thompson had been performing her job satisfactorily at all times. Several days later, before the deadline for providing the medical release had passed, Sysco terminated Thompson’s employment.
Such unlawful inquiries and demands for documentation concerning the nature and severity of Thompson’s disability, the EEOC said, violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended by the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (EEOC v. Sysco Oklahoma LLC, Case No.: 5:11-cv-00460-HE) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC’s lawsuit seeks back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and reinstatement or front pay for Thompson and injunctive relief, including training for all Sysco managers on disability discrimination.
“This employer’s conduct is precisely that which Congress felt the need to target in recently amending existing laws against disability discrimination,” said Barbara A. Seely, regional attorney of the EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, whose jurisdiction includes Oklahoma. “The EEOC believes that a disabled employee who is satisfactorily performing her job and who possesses a valid handicap parking placard for her vehicle should not have to suffer the indignity and hardship of being interrogated about her disability and then fired because of it.”
The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination. Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.