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Minnesota employer accused of disability discrimination

A vacuum manufacturer based in Waconia has been accused of allegedly terminating an employee whom it wrongfully thought to have a disability. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against Applied Vacuum Technology in U.S. Federal Court under disability discrimination.

According to the lawsuit, Applied Vacuum fired the shipping and receiving supervisor when the latter returned to work after a week in the hospital. The shipping and receiving supervisor had no work restraints because of the hospitalization.

Applied Vacuum states that the supervisor was fired because he failed to call in every day during the hospitalization. The EEOC considers this a wrongful termination, as Applied Vacuum was aware that the supervisor was in no physical condition to call the company on daily basis.

The EEOC attorney commented that employees who require hospitalization should be able to focus on recovering from illness without the fear of losing their jobs.

After failing to reach a settlement through legal resolution efforts, EEOC filed a case in the U.S. District Court. It has claimed emotional distress, lost wages and punitive damages on behalf of the shipping and receiving supervisor, training for employees and for company managers and compliance to be regularly monitored by the EEOC.

The EEOC commented that disability-based discrimination remains a tough problem in the United States. Minnesota alone has witnessed around 500 cases of alleged discrimination based on disability in fiscal year 2011.

The Minnesota Law which prevents discrimination on the basis of disability is called the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Under the MHRA, a disability is defined as a characteristic or a condition that affects an individual to either have a physical or mental damage that could limit major life activities, having a record of such a condition or be regarded as having such a condition. Any employee who faces such discrimination at workplace can file a complaint with EEOC and claim for damages like lost wages and emotional distress.

Source: Kare 11, "Feds allege discrimination by Waconia manufacturer," Sept. 27, 2012 

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