CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Legal Newsline) – The U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has filed a lawsuit against North Carolina-based Heritage Home Group alleging the company denied a worker the extended disability leave needed to recover from toe amputation and peripheral neuropathy.

The suit was announced Jan. 31.

In the suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, Statesville Division, the EEOC alleges Heritage Home Group violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). According to the EEOC complaint, Michael Woods, who worked as a machine operator at the company's Hickory Chair Co. manufacturing plant and also is a diabetic, suffered an infection that required his toe be amputated. When Woods, who was on short-term disability leave, told the company he needed additional months to recover due to developing peripheral neuropathy, the EEOC states his employment was terminated.

"The obligation to accommodate an employee with a disability so that he or she can retain the job is a fundamental aspect of the ADA," regional attorney for the EEOC's Charlotte District Office Lynette Barnes said in a news release. "Employers must be careful to give employees a fair chance to make a full recovery from disability-related conditions and return to productive work when the company can do so without undue hardship."

The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief.

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