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Chicago Employer to Pay $175,000 for Terminating Employee Over PTSD-Related Panic Attack

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Chicago Company Terminated an Employee Because of Her Mental Health Condition, Federal Agency Charged

 

 

Pivotal Home Solutions, a home warranty company headquartered in Naperville, Illinois, will pay $175,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

 

According to the EEOC’s suit, a former employee worked at Pivotal Home Solutions (“Pivotal”) as a dispatcher through a staffing agency for nearly six months. During that time, she succeeded in her role, received no negative performance evaluations, and was told that she would likely be hired to work directly for Pivotal instead of through the staffing agency. In January 2018, the employee disclosed to her supervisor that she had a panic attack and had been prescribed medication to treat her post-traumatic stress disorder and anxiety. Shortly thereafter, the supervisor contacted several representatives of the staffing company that placed the employee at Pivotal and requested that she be separated because of her “nervous breakdown.” In two of the phone calls, documented by representatives of the staffing company, the supervisor indicated that the employee had no performance issues but that he wanted to separate her anyway because he believed that the environment was too stressful for her. At least one representative of the staffing company informed the supervisor of the risk of terminating an employee for a medical condition that did not affect her performance, but the supervisor continued to request that the employee be terminated.

 

Such conduct violates Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (EEOC v. Pivotal Home Solutions, Civil Action No. 21-cv-04978), after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the EEOC’s conciliation process.

 

Under the three-year consent decree settling the suit, Pivotal will pay $175,000 to the former employee. Further, Pivotal is subject to an injunction forbidding it from discriminating against employees, including employees working for Pivotal through a staffing company, because of their disability. Pivotal is also subject to an injunction forbidding it from retaliating against employees for opposing any practice made unlawful under the ADA, filing a charge of discrimination under the ADA, testifying in any proceeding under the ADA, or for asserting any rights under the consent decree. Pivotal is also required to update its policies to prohibit discrimination under the ADA and to update the policies to state explicitly that they apply to employees working at Pivotal through staffing companies. In addition, Pivotal will provide annual trainings conducted by outside and independent trainers to managers and all employees responsible for human resources about their obligations under the ADA.

 

“The EEOC found during its pre-suit investigation of this charge that the employee was terminated because of her disability, in violation of the ADA,” said Julianne Bowman, district director of EEOC’s Chicago office. “Hiring employees through a staffing company is not a blank check to discriminate against them because of their disability. The ADA protects employees hired through staffing companies just as it protects permanent employees.”

 

Gregory Gochanour, the regional attorney of EEOC’s Chicago office, added, “Individuals with mental health impairments often face unfair stereotypes in the workplace. They are treated as fragile or incapable regardless of how successfully they have fulfilled their role. In this case, Pivotal punished a good employee for doing nothing other than informing her supervisor about her condition. This resolution helped bring some justice to this employee and will likely lead Pivotal and other employers to follow the law and respect the rights of their employees with impairments, including their temporary employees.”

 

For more information on disability discrimination, please visit https://www.eeoc.gov/disability-discrimination.

 

 

Be Audit-Secure™!

 

Lisa Smith, SPHR, SCP
EEOC Certified Investigator


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Lisa Smith, SPHR, SHRM – SCP

Certified EEO Investigator (EEOC)

Lead Support and Content Chief – HelpDeskforHR.com

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