Attorney Meghan Deutsch-Blanco reached a settlement on behalf of a wrongfully terminated North Carolina railroad worker this month. The railroad agreed to pay for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act or “ADA.” The ADA is the law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in many areas of public life.
In the workplace, the ADA requires employers with 15 or more employees to give a disabled worker a “reasonable accommodation” so that she can continue to work with her disability. This means that if an employee can continue to complete the important tasks of the job, an employer should work with that employee to accommodate the disability instead of terminating her. This is dependent on the type of accommodations needed, and that they are not too expensive or difficult for the employer.
Here are the details of the case: Our client was working on the job site laying track for the railroad when he experienced chest pain. He reported the pain and was sent for a medical evaluation. He was seen by the railroad’s doctor and a prestigious cardiologist at a private hospital. Both doctors agreed that he had experienced some type of acid reflux and was okay to continue to work. However, the railroad refused to let our client return to work in any capacity and terminated him because they decided he had a heart condition. The termination was shocking and upsetting to our client who had been cleared by his doctor to work and had always been a model employee.
The illegal termination caused a serious of negative impacts to our client including:
- Lost wages and benefits from the time out of work
- Loss of potential future wages since our client is now at a lower paying job
- Financial hardship including possible home foreclosure
- Depression over job loss which also impacted personal relationships and activities
The EEOC found that this was a clear violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act. In addition to the illegal termination, the railroad had broken other important federal employment laws. The railroad had co-mingled the employee’s personnel and health records and failed to post required notices to employees describing federal laws that prohibit employment discrimination.
The EEOC gave our client and the railroad the opportunity to resolve the case before a lawsuit was filed. Attorney Meghan Deutsch-Blanco advocated for full compensation of our client’s losses resulting in a settlement of $42,500.
The EEOC has announced that they are committed to pursuing cases where disabled workers have been mistreated or terminated because of their disabilities. We expect to see more cases where the EEOC takes disability discrimination seriously, leading to justice for disabled workers and those who are perceived to have disabilities.