Harman Corporation, a vinyl supplier based in Rochester, hired Jeff Cole to work in its print shop in 1993. He later transferred to production and, finally, to maintenance.
In 2005, one of Cole’s supervisors, Randy Fox, showed Cole nude pictures of Fox’s wife, Melissa, who also worked at the Rochester plant. Later that day, Melissa Fox approached Cole, smiled and told him he should stop by and see her some day. Cole reported the incident to his supervisor, but his supervisor merely laughed.
Shortly after, Cole was transferred back to production, which required moving quickly and standing for long periods. This was difficult for Cole because he suffered from severe varicose veins in his ankles. He asked for—but did not receive—accommodations for his condition. In short order, Harman fired Cole.
Cole sued for retaliation under the ADA and Title VII. Cole won his ADA case in court. He didn’t prevail on the Title VII retaliation claim because the firing came so soon after his complaint about the Fox photos. On that claim, the court gave Harman a pass, saying the two didn’t seem connected beyond their timing.
Note: Employers ignore requests for physical accommodations at their own peril. And letting supervisors flash risqué photos around with impunity isn’t too wise, either.
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