Employee With Asthma Fired After Requesting Reasonable Accommodation, Federal Agency Charges
ROCK HILL, S.C. – Insource Performance Solutions, LLC and LeGrand North America, Inc. violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) when they failed to accommodate and subsequently discharged a disabled employee, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in lawsuit it filed yesterday. Insource is a North Carolina-based corporation that provides labor services for its clients, including LeGrand. LeGrand, a Delaware corporation, is a leading provider of products and systems for electrical installations and information networks.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, Kendell Nichols suffers from asthma. On Oct. 5, 2009, Nichols was hired by Insource to work as a forklift driver at LeGrand’s warehouse and distribution facility in Fort Mill, S.C. Around June 26, 2010, a LeGrand supervisor instructed Nichols to count inventory at the LeGrand warehouse. Because of the heat in the warehouse at the height at which inventory was located, Nichols was concerned that his asthma would be triggered. In order to avoid possible breathing difficulties, Nichols used his forklift to lower the inventory to the floor in order to count it.
When questioned about this method by a LeGrand supervisor, Nichols informed the supervisor of his disability and requested an accommodation. Specifically, Nichols requested that he not be required to stand atop an order picker (a high-reach lift machine) that other employees were using to count the inventory, but instead be allowed to use his forklift to lower inventory to the warehouse floor where he would count it. Both LeGrand and Insource denied Nichols’ request and sent Nichols home for the day. When Nichols returned to work around June 28, he was fired by LeGrand and Insource for failing to complete the inventory counting assignment.
Such alleged conduct violates the ADA, which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, Rock Hill Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. LeGrand North America, Inc. and Insource Performance Solutions, LLC, Civil Action No.0:11-CV-02465-CMC-PGJ) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement. The EEOC seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for Nichols, as well as injunctive relief.
“Employers must remember that they are obligated under the ADA to provide disabled employees with reasonable accommodations that allow them to perform the essential functions of their jobs, unless doing so would be an undue hardship on the employer,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “Employers must also remember that the definition of ‘disabled’ under the amendments to the ADA that became effective on Jan. 1, 2009, is broad. More people with impairments that arguably were not covered before the amendments are now clearly covered, and must be accommodated according to the ADA’s requirements.”
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.