SEATTLE (Legal Newsline) — The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced a lawsuit July 19 against the Hershey Company for allegedly refusing to accommodate and later firing a disabled employee.
"Employers cannot ignore a request for a reasonable accommodation from an employee with a disability," said Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC's Seattle Field Office. "The law requires an employer to explore possible solutions to ensure that a worker can perform the essential functions of her job."
Kristina Williams was hired by Hersey in 2011, and the company purportedly knew at the time about her herniated discs and lifting restrictions. In 2015, Williams was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and needed to take a short medical leave. Upon returning to work, Williams requested to divide her daily break into smaller portions to help her stay within her lifting restrictions. Hersey purportedly denied the request, effectively suspended her for three months and later fired her.
"Employers cannot unilaterally decide to respond to an injury by refusing to allow an employer to return to work,” said EEOC supervisory trial attorney John Stanley. “According to the ADA, the exploration of possible accommodations must include the input of the employee."
The EEOC seeks monetary damages for Williams, training on anti-discrimination laws and posting of notices at the worksite.