A federal court has sided with the EEOC in a disability discrimination case involving the Macomb store of auto parts retailer AutoZone.
The case involved a store manager, John Shepherd, who suffered from back and neck injuries that limited his ability to lift or rotate his upper body.
In 2003, AutoZone changed its managers’ job descriptions to add tasks such as mopping floors and other maintenance jobs. Shepherd injured himself while attempting to perform those duties. When he tried to return from disability leave, the company kept him on unpaid involuntary leave. Eventually, AutoZone fired Shepherd.
Shepherd sued for disability discrimination.
In court, AutoZone noted that Shepherd applied for and received disability payments from the Social Security Administration. Therefore, it argued, he was too disabled to perform his job.
The EEOC joined the case, noting a long string of court decisions showing that disability determinations for receiving benefits are different from those for reasonable accommodations in the workplace. The court ruled against AutoZone.