Americans with Disabilities Act Violations Alleged in EEOC Lawsuit Against New Hampshire Company

Discrimination by employers because of an employee’s disability or health condition is a serious problem for American workers. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), a federal agency that investigates discrimination claims, has filed suit against a Nashua, New Hampshire company, alleging that it fired an employee because she has a heart condition in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

The lawsuit, filed in a federal court in Concord, New Hampshire, alleges that Windmill International, Inc., a defense contractor, terminated employee Nancy Hajjar, shortly after she gave notice that she would need time off for a surgical procedure related to a heart condition and that she may require heart surgery as well. The EEOC claims that the company terminated her because of “an actual or perceived impairment of her circulatory or cardiovascular functions.” Windmill claims that it fired Ms. Hajjar because of job performance problems, but the EEOC alleges that the company did not follow the same progressive discipline procedures afforded to other employees, concluding that the company’s explanation is false. The EEOC’s Press Release can be viewed here, EEOC Sues Windmill International for Disability Discrimination.

The ADA, which became effective in 1992 and was amended in 2009, protects employees suffering from disabilities from certain types of discrimination in the workplace. Employers with 15 or more employees must provide equal opportunity to disabled employees for all employment opportunities available to other employees. The law prohibits discrimination in hiring, firing, promotions, pay, and terms and conditions of employment. The same holds true under the Massachusetts Fair Employment Practices Act (M.G.L. c. 151B), which also prohibits handicap discrimination in the workplace and which applies to employers with 6 or more employees.

The EEOC is an independent law enforcement agency in the executive branch of the federal government. The agency was created in 1965, after passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It investigates claims of discrimination based on certain protected categories including race, gender, religion, age, and disability. It has authority to bring suit against employers that it suspects violated anti-discrimination statutes. People who believe they are the victims of unlawful discrimination must file a complaint with the EEOC, which will investigate the claim. A prospective plaintiff, before filing a lawsuit, must receive a “right-to-sue” letter from the EEOC when it concludes its review of the case. To learn more about disability discrimination and your rights, the following resources may be helpful:

Handicap Discrimination Overview, The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C.
A Guide to Disability Rights Laws, Civil Rights Division, U.S. Department of Justice
Disability Resources, Americans with Disabilities Act

According to an article by the New Hampshire Business Review entitled, EEOC charges Nashua firm in disability case, approximately 25% of the 100,000 complaints that the EEOC received in fiscal year 2010 involved disability discrimination. According to the Business Review’s research, Ms. Hajjar’s case may be the first disability-based claim filed by the EEOC in New Hampshire in a decade.

The Boston employment discrimination attorneys at The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C. represent people who are the victims of workplace discrimination based on a handicap or disability. To schedule a confidential consultation to discuss your case, contact the Firm through our website or at (617)973-6434.

More Handicap Discrimination Blog Posts by The Law Office of Alan H. Crede, P.C.:
ADA Amendments Act Provides Employees with Greater Protection, Boston Employment Lawyer Blog (December 15, 2009)
Handicap Discrimination Claim Succeeds Against Wal-Mart, Boston Employment Lawyer Blog (August 12, 2008)
Disability Discrimination Suit Against Wal-Mart Settles for $250,000, Boston Employment Lawyer Blog (July 13, 2008)