The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission launched a lawsuit against a company in Maryland yesterday. It is accusing the Baltimore-based mechanical heating, ventilation and air conditioning company, Fidelity Engineering, of disability discrimination and retaliation.

According to the lawsuit, the employer fired a sheet metal mechanic because of his disability, and it then retaliated against him by refusing to rehire him after he filed a discrimination claim.

The man at the center of this case had worked with the company for six years. He developed a heart condition and underwent surgery in September 2010. He was medically released to return to work the following January, but the company refused to allow him back stating that his job would present too much of a safety risk, despite the fact that his doctor said he could safely return to the same job with no restrictions.

The company declined to make accommodations by refusing to transfer the worker to a vacant position, and in 2012 when a sheet metal position became vacant it again refused to place him.

The EEOC has charged that this company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act in several ways. First, it failed to provide the worker with a reasonable accommodation and instead chose to fire him. Second, the company discriminated and retaliated against him by failing to hire him for the vacant sheet metal position in 2012. Third, the company failed to keep its personnel records and medical records separate.

The ADA is meant to stop employers from firing or refusing to hire employees based on stereotypes of disabilities. Under the ADA, employers do have to assess whether disabled employees present safety risks in the workplace, using medical knowledge and objective evidence.

The lawsuit seeks damages for this former employee, the creation of policies at the company to keep disability discrimination from happening again as well as the implementation of equal employment opportunities for those with disabilities. This is an example of the type of legal recourse that may be available to Maryland employees who are discriminated against.

Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, "EEOC Sues Fidelity Engineering Corporation for Disability Discrimination and Retaliation," Jan. 10, 2013