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Cold response to accommodation request puts firm in hot water

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in Discrimination and Harassment,Human Resources

Rose Hill-based House of Raeford Farms faces an EEOC disability discrimination suit after it fired a worker who requested a transfer to accommodate her disability.

The woman worked on Raeford’s box construction line until the company moved all of its box employees into the department that debones poultry. By necessity, the deboning area is kept chilled.

The employee suffers from anemia. Shortly after the transfer, she asked to be moved to a vacant position in a warmer area. Raeford responded by sending her home and asking her for a doctor’s note documenting her disability. She made a doctor’s appointment for June 21, but the company terminated her on June 1.

She filed a complaint with the EEOC, alleging the company violated the ADA when it fired her without evaluating her accommodation request. Attempts to resolve the dispute through the EEOC’s conciliation process failed and the EEOC filed suit.

Note: Raeford should have at least waited to hear from the em­­ployee’s doctor. The ADA permits employers to accommodate disabled employees by transferring them to vacant positions.

Advice: Before making any em­­ploy­­ment decisions, evaluate all disability accommodation requests to determine if they are reasonable. Firing someone while the accommodation request is still pending is practically begging to be sued.

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