Feds Allege Keystone RV Discriminated Against Disabled Worker

Federal officials complaint lodged Wednesday against Northern Indiana’s leading RV manufacturer, Keystone, for allegedly discriminating against an employee.

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission lawsuit says a disabled employee was fired for taking time off to attend medical appointments and surgery.

The company, a subsidiary of Thor Industriesdid not respond to requests for comment.

Society would have known he suffered from a ‘rare, chronic and painful’ condition called cystinuria which “creates episodic kidney stones the size of a golf ball”.

Keystone has a strict attendance policy that allows only seven unexcused absences before termination, according to the suit. The employee had requested time off for doctor visits and surgery, but the company reportedly denied his request.

The employee had six unexcused absences prior to his surgery in January 2020, EEOC attorneys wrote, all but one of which were a direct result of his disability. On the day of his operation, the company decided he had seven wrongful absences and fired him.

The commission argues that this action violated the Federal Americans with Disabilities Act, because that law requires reasonable accommodations, including time off, for people with chronic conditions. And firing the employee for taking that health care leave was tantamount to firing him because of his disability status.

The EEOC is seeking a jury trial in Indiana’s Northern District Court, where it will seek damages and back wages for the worker as well as a court order requiring the company to provide housing to the future.

state agency Indiana Disability Rights often helps people with disabilities resolve employment discrimination issues and sometimes refers cases to the EEOC. He was not involved in this case.

“Often we see employers say no to an application without going through the interactive process to try to identify alternative accommodation,” said Emily Munson, attorney and director of IDR policy.

In an interview, Munson did not speak directly about the case against Keystone. The EEOC alleges that Keystone failed to engage in the “interactive” process required by law to find housing he could approve in this case.

Munson said the IDR has dealt with cases where an employee with a chronic illness has not received the accommodations to which they were entitled.

“Unfortunately we have seen employers at times who were unwilling to work with this employee,” she said. “And either wrote them not to come to work while they were at the doctor’s appointment or they would fire the employee.”

IDR generally tries to take a “more carrot than stick” approach with employers, she said, preferring to explain the benefits of hiring and accommodating workers with disabilities rather than threatening legal action.

That’s partly because people worry that reporting discrimination will affect relationships with their current employers and co-workers, Munson said. Some public litigation concerns could get them branded a “troublemaker” and lower their chances of being hired elsewhere.

The law “protects them from retaliation by an employer” after they file a discrimination complaint or lawsuit, she said. But “since it’s a right, an employer can still go ahead and retaliate against someone.”

This puts people “between a rock and a hard place” when it comes to asserting their rights at work.

“That’s why we always advise trying to settle things as amicably as possible,” she said. “But sometimes, of course, that’s just not possible. And individuals might need to take stronger action.

In a press release, the commission indicates that it only lodged a complaint after the failure of attempts at private negotiations with Keystone.

Munson suggested anyone who thinks they are being discriminated against because of their disability contact the IDR, EEOC or other organizations like Federal Management. Job Hosting Networkwhich offers “free, specialist and confidential advice on workplace accommodation and employment for people with disabilities”.

In 2021, people with disabilities were about twice as likely to be unemployed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Contact journalist Adam at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @arayesIPB.

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