Gannett Newspaper Fired Employee One Week After His Return from Medical Leave,
Federal Agency Charged
JACKSON, Tenn. – The Jackson Sun, a Gannett daily newspaper in Jackson, Tenn., will pay $150,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.
The EEOC’s lawsuit (Case No. 1:11-cv-01252), filed in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Tennessee, Eastern Division, charged that The Jackson Sun fired a commercial print manager exactly one week after his return from a medical leave of absence. He had sustained permanent spinal cord damage after back surgery. The EEOC said that The Jackson Sun could have accommodated the employee with minimal effort and that his termination was discriminatory.
Terminating an employee because of a disability violates Title I of the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which requires that an employer provide a reasonable accommodation to an individual with a disability unless the employer demonstrates that the accommodation would pose an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
“This situation and lawsuit, like so many others, could easily have been averted if this company had simply made a good-faith effort at a reasonable accommodation,” said Faye A. Williams, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Memphis District Office. “The EEOC will continue to litigate these cases to ensure that employers observe the very reasonable provisions of federal disability rights law.”
Besides the monetary relief, the one-year consent decree, approved by US. District Court Judge J. Daniel Breen, requires that The Jackson Sun provide training on the ADA to all of its employees, provide a report to the EEOC outlining any requests for an accommodation and the company’s response to that request, and post a notice to its employees about the lawsuit that includes the EEOC’s contact information. The Jackson Sun also revised its serious leave/disability policy to clarify the process by which an employee should request an accommodation.
Michael L. Weinman, an attorney in Jackson, intervened in the lawsuit and represented the employee.
The Jackson Sun is a subsidiary of Gannett Company, Inc. Gannett operates 82 U.S. daily newspapers, including USA Today, which reaches 11.6 million readers every weekday and 12 million readers every Sunday according to Gannett’s website.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.