A large car dealership has agreed to pay a former employee a sum of $56,000 as well as "significant injunctive relief" for firing the disabled worker unlawfully. According to the three-year consent decree that settled the wrongful termination lawsuit, the dealership must also refrain from discriminating and retaliating against employees in the future. The company must also implement procedures aimed at accommodating its employees' disabilities.
The lawsuit, filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission accused the dealership of firing the worker after refusing to accommodate his disability, a leg problem that makes it more difficult for him to walk. In Maryland and all other states, employees are protected from disability discrimination by the American with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC reportedly attempted to settle the case with the dealership before filing the lawsuit, but the agency's efforts were unsuccessful.
An official with the EEOC explained, "When an employer is on notice that one of its employees cannot perform a job function due to a disability, the ADA requires that the employer distinguish between the essential and non-essential functions of that job." This means that while employers may not be required to accommodate for disabilities that would make it impossible for workers to do their jobs, disabilities for which reasonable accommodation may be made are not grounds for termination. The official added that "earnest, interactive communication with the employee" is a critical factor in complying with the ADA.
An attorney with the EEOC explained that she was pleased that the lawsuit was able to be resolved easily, and that the dealership provided "satisfactory monetary relief" and would take measures to prevent similar discrimination in the future.
Source: Jobmouse "Ford-Lincoln Mercury Car Dealership To Pay $56,000 For Firing Salesperson Because of Leg Condition," Lynn Herman, Dec. 19, 2011