MONROE, Ga. — The federal government has sued a local company over its alleged failure to give a worker extra bathroom breaks, then firing her.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas Inc. and announced its case last week.
The suit claims Misti Huff King, an assembly operator at the Hitachi plant in Monroe, had a medical condition which required her to take frequent restroom breaks.
King, the government says, received a positive evaluation and completed her probation period, then received an offer of permanent employment from the company.
The EEOC claims King requested a “reasonable accommodation” during the screening process. She asked to be able to take additional restroom breaks beyond her lunch break and a scheduled 15-minute break.
Instead of granting King’s request, the company allegedly determined she was unable to perform the job and rescinded its offer.
The government says the company’s actions violate the Americans With Disabilities Act, which prohibits employers from making employment decisions based on an employee’s disability unless it would impose an undue hardship.
The EEOC first tried to reach a resolution through a conciliation process before suing the company but was unsuccessful. Instead, it filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Atlanta.
The government is seeking monetary relief for King and injunctive relief that would prohibit Hitachi from engaging in similar conduct in the future.
“Employers must accept their legal responsibility to evaluate each employee’s situation without bias and unfounded assumptions,” Antonette Sewell, a regional attorney for the EEOC Atlanta District office, said.
“When they fail to do so, their employment decisions fly in the face of federal law. The EEOC is committed to seeking relief for workers who are harmed by such discriminatory practices.”
Darrell Graham, who serves as the director of the Atlanta EEOC office, said the company’s decision to rescind its offer, was “unlawful.”
“The company could have accommodated her request to take additional restroom breaks, but instead, dug in its heels and deprived Ms. King of her livelihood without good cause,” Graham said. “When that happens, EEOC will step in.”
In a statement Craig Fisher, senior vice president for human resources and corporate secretary, said the company plans a defense. He issued this statement Tuesday afternoon:
“Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas Inc. is aware of the statement from the EEOC. We respectfully disagree with the allegations and will pursue our defense vigorously in Federal Court. We do not discriminate against people with disabilities under the Americans With Disabilities Act and we are fully committed to supporting all laws, including those supporting equal employment opportunities.”