DETROIT – Neenah Paper, Inc., a manufacturer of various types of premium paper with a paper mill in Munsing, Mich., violated federal law by discriminating against a production worker because of his disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed on August 29.
According to EEOC’s lawsuit, Neenah Paper discriminated against Kris Gauthier because of his seizure disorder. Gauthier was hired as a fourth hand laborer. After he had a seizure at work and was placed on a medical leave of absence, Neenah Paper would not allow Gauthier to return to work without confirmation from a physician that he no longer had his medical condition, EEOC said. Months later, in July 2013, Neenah Paper allowed Gauthier to return to his job on the condition that he take his medication at work under observation – either in the presence of the plant nurse or designated co-workers.
Such alleged conduct violates Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against applicants and employees because of disabilities. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Neenah Paper, Inc., Civil Action No. 2:15-cv-00113) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC is seeking injunctive relief prohibiting Neenah Paper from discriminating against other employees with disabilities, equitable relief to provide equal opportunities for qualified employees with disabilities in the future, lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other affirmative relief for Gauthier.
“An employer cannot single out an employee who has a disability and impose an over-protective rule on that person as a condition of employment,” said EEOC Detroit Field Office Trial Attorney Omar Weaver. “Such actions represent the kind of differential treatment toward disabled individuals that the ADA was enacted to prohibit.”
EEOC is a federal agency that enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The Detroit Field Office is part of the Indianapolis District Office, which oversees Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and parts of Ohio. Further information about EEOC is available on the agency’s website at www.eeoc.gov.