In employment law news, the Philadelphia office of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently found that a Rite Aid Pharmacy in Perryman, Maryland violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it terminated former employee Christopher Fultz for having epilepsy, and ordered the pharmacy to pay a $250,000.00 monetary award.
What is most striking about this case is not the high monetary award, but rather Rite Aid’s flagrant disregard for the laws and protections provided by the ADA.
Mr. Fultz had filed a previous complaint with the EEOC alleging discrimination based on his disability of having epilepsy. In response to this claim, Rite Aid retaliated against Mr. Fultz by forcing him to undergo a fitness-for-duty exam with an occupational health doctor. Mr. Fultz claimed that the doctor had no experience in treating individuals with epilepsy. Based on the lone opinion of this unqualified doctor, Rite Aid terminated Mr. Fultz’s employment.
I have to say, it is shocking to see a company of this size and name recognition handle a discriminatory claim filed by one of its employees in this way. The law is clear that upon receiving the complaint of discrimination, Rite Aid should have investigated whether or not the pharmacy could reasonably accommodate Mr. Fultz’s disability thereby eliminating any safety concerns his disability presented, or investigated to see if Mr. Fultz’s disability posed an actual safety threat to the workplace.
Rather than properly investigating the claims, Rite Aid retaliated against Mr. Fultz and that is the most shocking aspect of this case.
It is important for any business to understand the laws of the ADA and its corresponding responsibilities under the Act, and to train all of its employees accordingly. Without proper knowledge and training, a business subjects itself to a toxic work environment and costly litigation. Spending money on the front end in terms of discrimination trainings will save businesses a fortune in litigation and employee turnover.
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