Heritage Home Group to Pay $50,000 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit
Home Furnishings Company Denied Accommodation to and Fired Employee, Federal Agency Charged
Heritage Home Group, LLC, a North Carolina corporation that designs, manufactures, sources and retails home furnishings, will pay $50,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced. The EEOC charged that Heritage Home violated federal law when it failed to provide a machine operator at its Hickory Chair Company manufacturing plant in Hickory, N.C., an accommodation for his disability. The federal agency further charged that Heritage Home fired the employee because of his disability.
According to the EEOC's lawsuit, the employee (who wishes to remain anonymous) is a person with diabetes. He developed an infection and underwent surgery for amputation of one of his toes in March 2016. The employee was also diagnosed with peripheral neuropathy and needed additional leave to recover fully. The employee informed Heritage Home of his anticipated return to work the first week of June 2016. Heritage Home informed the employee in a letter dated April 29, 2016 that it would be terminating his employment because the employee would not be able to return to work until June.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1991 (ADA), which requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with a disability unless doing so would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Statesville Division (EEOC v. Heritage Home Group, LLC, Civil Action No. 5:18-CV-00018) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
As part of the settlement, Heritage Home is required to pay the employee $50,000. In addition, the company has entered into a two-year consent decree that requires it to implement an ADA policy; conduct annual training for its human resources and management personnel on the ADA and its requirement that employees be provided with reasonable accommodations absent an undue hardship; and report to the EEOC on its accommodation practices.
"This settlement recognizes that employees with disabilities are important members of the workforce and should be provided equal opportunities to succeed in the workplace," said Lynette Barnes, regional attorney of the EEOC's Charlotte District Office.