Federal lawsuit: Duluth lumber company fired worker because of disability

The firm is being sued by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
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A Duluth company has been accused of violating a federal civil rights law by firing an employee because of his "perceived disability."

Lake States Lumber, which is owned by Georgia-based BlueLinx Corp., is being sued by the the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The suit relates to a worker employed by the lumber company between August 2008 until his firing in February 2016.

The employee has a heart condition and went on leave to have heart surgery. He was cleared to return with no restrictions, but when he returned his managers placed restrictions on his ability to work and assigned him a different role.

The EEOC says that 9 days later, he was fired.

The EEOC contends that this violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prevents discrimination against workers because of a disability.

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"Restricting an employee's ability to work and then firing him because the company regards him as disabled violates the ADA," said Julianne Bowman, district director of the EEOC's Chicago District. 

"This type of discrimination deprives people of employment opportunities because of myths and stereo­types about disability, and that's neither lawful nor acceptable."

The suit was filed against the company after the EEOC initially attempted to reach a settlement with the company through the conciliation process.

The federal agency is seeking backpay, injunctive relief, and "compensatory and punitive damages" for the employee.

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