Carolinas Verdicts

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Machinist on leave for a toe amputation lost his job

Amount:

$50,000

Type:

Settlement

State:

North Carolina

Venue:

Federal

Court:

U.S. District Court, North Carolina, Middle District

Case Type:

Civil Rights – ADA; Employment – Failure to Accommodate, Disability Discrimination

Case Name:

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Heritage Home Group LLC,
No. 5:18-cv-00018-MOC-DSC

Date:

May 22, 2018

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

Katherine Christy;
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission;
Charlotte,
NC,
for
Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Defendant(s):

Heritage Home Group LLC

Defense Attorney(s):

Kevin S. Joyner;
Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.;
Raleigh,
NC,
for
Heritage Home Group LLC

Facts:

On April 29, 2016, claimant Michael Woods, a machine operator, was terminated from his job at Heritage Home Group LLC while he was on a leave of abscence. Woods, who has Type 2 diabetes, started working for the company in October 2015. In March 2016, Woods developed an infection in one of his toes as a result of his diabetes, which resulted in a toe amputation. He also developed peripheral neuropathy in both feet. Woods’ last day of work prior to his hospital admission was on March 28. Between March 29 and March 31, Woods allegedly notified his employer of his diabetes, peripheral neuropathy, hospitalization, subsequent surgery to remove the infected toe and the need for time off from work. On April 8, Woods allegedly informed Heritage Home of his anticipated return to work on June 6. On April 29, Heritage Home notified Woods that it would not grant Woods’ request for leave that would allow him to return to work on June 6, and notified that he was terminated. On Woods’ behalf, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Heritage Home, alleging that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Heritage Home violated federal law by denying Woods a reasonable accommodation, plaintiff’s counsel argued. Heritage Home denied that it had violated the ADA with respect to any current or former employee. Heritage Home maintained that it was aware that Woods had a toe condition that later required surgery, but that it had no knowledge at the time that Woods suffered from diabetes and peripheral neuropathy. The company had granted Woods an initial leave of absence, but Heritage Home believed that extending the leave of absence further was no longer a reasonable accommodation. According to the defense, Woods had not informed Heritage Home on April 8 that he could not return until June 6, as he alleged. He initially informed Heritage Home that he could return on April 29, but then he was unable to return at that time, according to the defense. This prompted Heritage Home to terminate Woods. Heritage Home maintained that it strives to ensure a workplace free of any discrimination, and seeks to provide reasonable accommodations to applicants and employees covered by the ADA where doing so would not create an undue hardship.

Injury:

The EEOC sought to recover back pay and unspecified amounts in compensatory and punitive damages. The EEOC further sought to have Heritage Home institute anti-discrimination policies and provide training on employee rights under the ADA.

Result:

The parties settled for $50,000, prior to trial. Under a two-year consent decree, Heritage Home is required to implement an ADA policy, and report to the EEOC on its accommodation practices. It is also required to 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.

Editor’s Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff’s and defense counsel.