Sysco Settles Suit over Firing Employee for Parking Legally in Handicap Space

December 6, 2011 ( – Sysco Oklahoma LLC will pay $82,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit. 

The lawsuit, which was filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), charged that Sysco subjected a disabled employee to unlawful medical inquiries, demands and, ultimately, terminated her on the basis of her disability.

The EEOC alleged that Amanda Thompson, who worked for Sysco as a customer service representative, was observed legally parking in one of the employer’s unreserved handicap parking spaces in February 2009. In response to this observation, Sysco confronted Thompson and demanded that she describe how she was handicapped, produce supporting medical records and provide Sysco with a physician’s full medical release stating she is 100% able to perform her job without restrictions or be terminated. Sysco made these demands notwithstanding the fact that Thompson had a valid handicap parking permit and had been performing her job satisfactorily at all times, the EEOC said. Several days later, before the deadline for providing the medical release had passed, Sysco fired Thompson.

Such unlawful inquiries and demands related to Thompson’s disability violated the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), as amended by the Americans With Disabilities Act Amendments Act of 2008 (ADAAA). The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. In addition to declarative relief, the EEOC’s lawsuit sought back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and reinstatement or front pay for Thompson and injunctive relief, including training for all Sysco managers on disability discrimination.

The consent decree settling the suit, which must be approved by Judge Joe Heaton, also provides for injunctive relief, including posting notification to employees, revision and dissemination of anti-discrimination policies and live training on disability anti-discrimination law. Sysco will also discontinue its practice of requiring disabled employees to be 100% able to work without considering whether they are able to work with a reasonable accommodation.

The case is EEOC v. Sysco Oklahoma LLC, No. 5:11-cv-00460-HE.