Employer Discriminated Against and Fired Employee Due to Perceived Disability, Federal Agency Charged

NEW ORLEANS – Gulf Logistics Operating, Inc., a Larose, Louisiana company that operates a fleet of off-shore workboats in the Gulf of Mexico has agreed to pay $25,000 and provide other significant relief to settle a disability lawsuit by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today.

According to the EEOC lawsuit, Gulf Logistics hired Jason Gunderson in October 2012 as a deckhand and assigned him to one of their vessels working in the Gulf of Mexico. In April 2013, Gunderson requested a referral to the company’s Employee Assistance Program for his situational depression.

Gunderson returned to work after being cleared by the company’s medical provider for full duty and had no restrictions from his doctor. He worked satisfactorily for two weeks and was still fired by Gulf Logistics because they believed he posed a safety concern.

Such alleged conduct violated the Americans with Disabilities Act which prohibits employers from discriminating against people due to a disability or perceived disability. The EEOC filed suit, (Civil Action No. 2:17-cv-09362-ILRL-DMD), in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation voluntary settlement through its conciliation process.

Although Gulf Logistics denied any liability, Gulf Logistics agreed to resolve this matter by entering into a two-year consent decree. Aside from the monetary relief, Gulf Logistics also agreed to develop an effective policy to protect applicants and/or employees from any form of disability discrimination. Most importantly, Gulf Logistics will provide training to its employees about its policy and the ADA’s prohibitions. They will also report to the EEOC on its compliance of the law and will post an “EEO is the Law” poster for its employees and/or applicants to be aware of their rights.

“This settlement will assist the company by assuring they don’t make decisions based on unsubstantiated disability myths, without determining if there is a real basis for concern,” said Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC New Orleans and Houston offices. “Employers can’t fire persons based on a disability or perceived disability, when no real threat exists.”

Michelle Butler, senior trial attorney for the New Orleans Field Office, said, “This settlement will not only enforce the principles under the ADA but assist the company in complying with the ADA by fully understanding its prohibitions and their responsibilities.”

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.