An Oklahoma-based internet retailer will pay $55,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit, federal officials say.
In its lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) said Black Forest Décor LLC, based in Jenks, Oklahoma, unlawfully fired warehouse employee for taking unpaid leave it forced her to use.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, in February 2018, Barbara Berry, a worker in Black Forest’s Enid, Okla., warehouse, notified the company that she had a medical condition that was likely to require surgery in the coming month, but that her doctor had released her to work until her surgery.
In response, Black Forest placed Berry on unpaid leave until her surgery because the company was afraid it would be liable if anything happened to her while working.
Although Berry kept Black Forest updated with details about her upcoming surgery, the company didn’t contact her again until three weeks later when it sent her a letter stating she was being fired for “excessive absences,” the EEOC charged.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions against individuals because of disabilities, including forcing them to take unnecessary leave. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Black Forest Décor, LLC, No. 5:19-cv-00894-SLP) in September 2019 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The three-year consent decree settling the suit, entered by Judge Scott L. Palk, requires Black Forest Décor to pay $55,000 in monetary damages to Barbara Berry and adopt policies and provide annual employee training to ensure compliance with the ADA.
The decree further requires Black Forest Décor to post an anti-discrimination notice and track denied accommodation requests and discharges for medical-related absences and report them to the EEOC.
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