Epilepsy affects approximately two million Americans to varying degrees. It is a neurological condition that causes people to have seizures. Some can control their epilepsy with medication and avoid having seizures for years, while others continue to have seizures even while medicated. Special caution may need to be taken in certain situations by those who have frequent seizures, but no one should have to give up living or working because of this condition. Two companies recently settled lawsuits that addressed the need to make accommodations for potential and current employees with this particular disability.
A Missouri man applied at Tyson Foods, a meat processing company, for a maintenance position. The man had epilepsy that he had kept under control with medication for 12 years. During this period he had even been employed twice by Tyson. When he applied the third time however, he was denied a position without even being examined by a physician because of a new medical evaluation process put in place by Tyson. The applicant felt he had been discriminated against because of his disability and contacted the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which agreed with him.
The EEOC filed an employment discrimination lawsuit against Tyson on the man’s behalf in May 2010. Tyson and the EEOC settled the lawsuit, with Tyson agreeing to pay the man $35,000 and promising to make some changes to their policies. Now, if an applicant at Tyson fails a medical assessment, he can have second and third assessments done at his own expense. Tyson will also provide training for those doing the assessments, will post notices regarding discrimination for its employees, and will report to the EEOC regarding its compliance.
In another case in California, a current employee was fired when he suffered a seizure while working. The employee was working as a stocker on the night shift when he suffered mild seizures. The employer was concerned about his safety and the safety of others, so he was terminated. The EEOC filed a lawsuit against Buy Rite, stating the company should have reviewed the employee’s medical records or had a physical evaluation done to determine if he was able to do the job instead of firing him. The fired employee was given $50,000 as part of the settlement with Buy Rite, and he hopes that others will not be discriminated against because of a disability. Michael Baldonado from the EEOC San Francisco district agreed, saying “Employers may lose out on talented and loyal employees if they rely upon myths and stereotypes about disabilities instead [of] making an unbiased evaluation of each individual.”
Unfortunately employment discrimination exists in all parts of the United States. If you think you have been turned down for a job, fired, or denied a promotion or benefits due to discrimination, it is important that you contact a Kentucky or Indiana employment attorney to discuss your situation. The attorneys at Miller & Falkner are experienced in discrimination cases and will be able to answer all of your questions and determine if legal action should be taken.
Thrift Shop to Pay $50,000 for Allegedly Discriminating Stocker with Epilepsy; Human Resources Journal; February 9, 2012
Tyson Foods Settles Lawsuit Over Not Hiring Applicant with Epilepsy; Human Resources Journal; February 27, 2012