Poultry Processor Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination for Firing Anemic Employee

According to the complaint filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Erica Sutton suffers from anemia. Sutton was hired by House of Raeford, a North Carolina poultry processor, on a box construction line.

The box line employees were moved to the debone department, which is in a cold work environment. Sutton informed her supervisor that because she is anemic, she could not work in a cold environment and requested to be transferred to a vacant position in a department in a warmer area.

According to the EEOC, instead of reassigning Sutton to a warmer area, the company sent her home saying that it required a doctor’s note stating that she had been diagnosed with anemia. Although the company was aware that Sutton could not get an appointment with her doctor to obtain the required doctor’s note for nearly a month out, the company fired her the next week.

The EEOC also alleges that the company illegally disclosed Sutton’s confidential medical information to some of her co-workers during a meeting at the facility – presumably when asked why she was not transferring to the deboning department with the rest of them.

Unfortunately, these facts happen all the time. A company makes a business decision, an employee cannot or does not want to comply, the employee is terminated for non-compliance, and the company tells co-workers why the employee is no longer around. Fortunately, companies have an option to avoid these types of EEOC charges.

This company – like many of the ones I informally polled – did not know that anemia was considered a disability. In fact, most companies don’t know what is and is not considered a disability. The Americans with Disabilities Act was recently amended to include many more ailment as disabilities. Do you know if workers who wear glasses are now considered disabled? How about employees with gastro-intestinal problems?

This company was not a member of Austin Legal’s Concierge Legal Services, so it did not run these facts past me or ask for my opinion before terminating the anemic employee. Had it asked for my advice, it would not have been sued by the EEOC. Plain and simple. Austin Legal Concierge Legal Services was launched to avoid this specific situation. Contact me today to sign up.

Matt Austin is a Columbus, Ohio lawyer who owns Austin Legal, LLC, a boutique law firm with offices in central and northeast Ohio that limits its representation to employers dealing with labor, employment, and OSHA matters. Austin Legal’s Concierge Legal Services program is relied upon by companies to remain compliant and competitive. If you have employees, you need Concierge Legal Services. You can call Matt at (614) 285-5342 or email him at Austin@LaborEmploymentOSHA.com.