Employer Sued For Allegedly Failing to Return Employee to Work After Surgery

Published on Monday, 14 January 2013 Written by Editor

Tags: arbitration

A leading provider of mechanical heating, ventilation and air conditioning services in the Mid-Atlantic area allegedly violated federal law when it fired a sheet metal mechanic because of his disability, according to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).  Further, the company later allegedly refused to rehire him because of his disability and in retaliation for filing a charge of discrimination. Jose Arteaga Rivas worked for six years as a sheet metal mechanic with Fidelity Engineering Corporation, when he developed endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart. Arteaga had valve replacement surgery in September 2010 and was medically released to return to work in January 2011. Despite his record of good job performance, the company allegedly refused to allow him to return to work because of his disability.  Instead, the employer fired Arteaga on February 4, 2011, stating in the termination letter, "[g]iven the nature of [his] job as a Sheet Metal Mechanic, it is too risky to allow [him] to return to [his] previous line of work."

The EEOC charged that even though Arteaga's doctor had released him to return to work with no restrictions, Fidelity claimed in its notice of discharge that Arteaga was "unable to return to job as a Sheet Metal Mechanic due to ongoing medical condition."  Fidelity Engineering also allegedly violated federal law when it failed to transfer Arteaga to a vacant position as a reasonable accommodation for his disability and instead terminated him, according to the EEOC in its lawsuit. The American with Disabilities Act (ADA) also requires employers to undertake a rigorous assessment of whether a disabled employee poses a safety threat in the workplace.  The EEOC's regulations state that an employer's direct-threat assessment must be "based on a
reasonable medical judgment that relies on the most current medical knowledge and/or on the best available objective evidence." Read More.

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