MINNEAPOLIS - A Waconia-based vacuum manufacturer is the subject of a federal lawsuit for allegedly firing an employee it falsley regarded as having a disability.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) filed the lawsuit against Applied Vacuum Technology Wednesday in U.S. Federal Court.
The lawsuit alleges that when shipping and receiving supervisor Larry Kating returned to work after being hospitalized for a week, Applied Vacuum fired him, although Kating came back with no work restrictions.
Investigators say Applied Vacuum contends that it fired Kating for not calling in every day of his hospitalization, even though it knew that Kating was physically incapable of doing so.
"Employees who are hospitalized should be able to concentrate on getting healthy without danger of losing their job," said John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the Chicago District Office of the EEOC in a written statement.
After first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement through statutory conciliation efforts, the EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court. The agency is seeking lost wages, damages for emotional distress, and punitive damages on behalf of Kating, plus training for company managers and employees, and compliance monitoring by the EEOC.
Hendrickson also noted that discrimination based on disability continues to be a difficult problem in the United States. Almost 500 charges alleging disability discrimination were filed in fiscal year 2011 in Minnesota alone.
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