Software Company Fired Employee for Perceived Disability, Federal Agency Charged
RALEIGH, N.C. - SoftPro, LLC, a Delaware software company headquartered in Raleigh, N.C., will pay $80,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Matthew Elliott worked for SoftPro in an IT position at the company's Raleigh headquarters. Elliott, an individual with a record of opiate addiction, participated in physician-supervised medication-assisted treatment (MAT) for the addiction since 2009. In February 2017, Elliott took leave from SoftPro and voluntarily admitted himself to an inpatient treatment facility to eliminate the need for MAT. Elliott successfully completed the inpatient treatment and returned to work. Upon his return to work, Elliott was questioned by SoftPro about the purpose of his leave. Elliott disclosed his recent participation in a treatment program to eliminate his need for ongoing MAT. SoftPro fired Elliott on Feb. 27, 2017 because it perceived him as disabled, the EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees and applicants from discrimination based on their disabilities, including perceived disabilities and records of disabilities. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Western Division (EEOC v. SoftPro, LLC, Civil Action No. 5:18-cv-00463) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. Thereafter, Elliott joined in the suit individually with his own counsel.
In addition to the $80,000 in damages, the three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit requires that SoftPro revise, implement and distribute personnel policies to state that the company does not exclude employees based on their participation in a medication-assisted treatment program. The company must also provide annual training to its human resources team, managers, supervisors, and employees; post a notice to employees relating to the settlement; and report to the EEOC all negative employment actions the company takes against employees who have a record of substance abuse disorder or who are currently participating in, or have successfully completed, a drug rehabilitation program.
"Employees in recovery and actively participating in treatment should not fear losing their jobs," said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney of the EEOC's Charlotte District Office. "The EEOC will continue to litigate cases where people with disabilities are terminated based on fears and assumptions about the work they can perform."
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.