A payroll services company based in Eden Prairie has agreed to pay $95,000 to settle a federal lawsuit after a woman said she was fired because she needed crutches to get around after knee surgery.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on Tuesday said Employer Solutions Group (ESG) agreed to pay the money to resolve a discrimination lawsuit the EEOC filed.
According to the lawsuit, Shannon Enstad, 40, of Mound, needed crutches after having her ACL repaired about a month after she was hired on a probationary basis. She was cleared to go back to work with no restrictions in April 2018, but was soon fired.
The EEOC says ESG fired Enstad because she needed to be fully healed before returning to work, citing her need for an "ambulatory aide."
“Employers cannot make employment decisions based on speculation about an employee’s disability,” said Gregory Gochanour, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Chicago District. “All employees, including individuals with physical impairments, are entitled to be evaluated based on their ability to do the job.”
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it illegal to fire or discriminate against an employee because they have a disability or a perceived disability. It also makes it illegal to retaliate against a worker who requests accommodation or opposes discrimination.
“As in this case, policies that require an employee to be 100% healed before returning to work are inconsistent with the ADA’s reasonable accommodation requirement, and the EEOC will pursue these violations when they occur," Julianne Bowman, district director of the EEOC’s Chicago District, said.
The EEOC filed a lawsuit against ESG after attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through a conciliation process, a release said. This settlement follows a court ruling in August in which the court rejected ESG's motion for summary judgment and found that the evidence against ESG warranted a trial.
After that ruling, ESG agreed to settle the lawsuit.
In addition to paying Enstad $95,000, the settlement requires ESG to eliminate any policy or practice that requires workers to be released without restrictions or 100% healed in order to work. It also requires training on the ADA for both management and other employees and requires ESG to report any further disability discrimination complaints to the EEOC for the next three years.