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Texas-based K&L Auto Crushers fired employee, federal agency charged

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Tyler, Texas-based K&L Auto Crushers will pay $90,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employee immediately notified the owner of K&L when she was diagnosed with small-cell lung cancer. The employee also told the owner the estimated length of her chemotherapy treatment. Shortly after the employee started chemotherapy, the owner told the employee that the company had secured temporary help and that she should stay home until she was finished with her chemotherapy. The employee asked the owner if she could work from home and requested to return to work on a modified work schedule while she finished chemotherapy, but K&L denied both requests, the EEOC said. K&L fired the employee shortly after she began treatment but did not tell her she had been terminated until she finished chemotherapy, according to the suit.

The EEOC charged that K&L violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities and requires employers to make reasonable accommodation for known disabilities. The EEOC filed suit, Civil Action No. 6:20-cv-00455, in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The three-year consent decree settling the suit, entered by U.S. District Judge J. Campbell Barker on Aug. 5, prohibits future discrimination and retaliation and, in addition to the monetary relief, requires the employer to provide annual training to all human resources and management employees, including but not limited to the defendant’s owners, on reasonable accommodation and the factors to be considered in making an appropriate assessment of accommodation requests. The training will also discuss the appropriate steps to be taken in assessing a request for accommodation.

“When an employee requests an accommodation, an employer must have a meaningful discussion about possible accommodations with an employee whose disability is impacting her ability to perform the functions of her job,” said Meaghan Kuelbs, senior trial attorney in the EEOC’s Dallas District Office. “The employer must be an active participant in the accommodation process to find a way to accommodate the employee’s disability and only deny a reasonable accommodation if it would create an undue hardship for the business.”

Suzanne Anderson, EEOC acting regional attorney, added, “In this case, the EEOC was proud to represent this employee who was so strongly committed to going to work and performing her job, regardless of her disability. This consent decree provides her with appropriate relief and ensures that the company trains its managers and employees so they can implement the important reasonable accommodation provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

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