Company Fired Commercial Diver Because He Had Cancer, Federal Agency Charged
HOUSTON – T&T Subsea, LLC, a Galveston marine services company, will pay $125,000 and furnish significant equitable relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the suit, after being diagnosed with cancer, the commercial diver continued to work for T&T through his chemotherapy and radiation treatment until he took leave for surgery. When he notified T&T that he was ready to return to full duty, the company fired him. T&T claimed that commercial diver guidelines disqualified him from employment because he had cancer within the last five years. But the guidelines also require employers to make individualized medical assessments, which, the EEOC alleged, T&T failed to do. The law also requires that employers engage in an interactive process with employees and individually assess their ability to return to work.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. T&T Subsea, LLC, Civil Action No. 19-12874) in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through the agency’s conciliation process.
In addition to the $125,000 in monetary relief, the three-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit requires T&T to remove unlawful disqualification language from its policies and to revise its existing anti-discrimination policy. T&T must report all adverse actions taken against divers based on their impairments or medical conditions, all complaints of disability discrimination made by divers, and all diver requests for reasonable accommodation. Further, T&T will provide annual ADA training to its human resources and managerial employees and post a notice that affirms its ADA obligations and states that employees can report violations to the EEOC.
“This lawsuit reminds employers that the ADA takes precedence over internal policy or trade association guidelines,” said EEOC Houston District Office Regional Attorney Rudy Sustaita. “The ADA requires employers to conduct an individualized assessment of the employee’s present ability to safely perform the essential functions of the job. The bottom line is that employers can’t fire people just because they have or had cancer.”
EEOC Houston District Office Trial Attorney Claudia Molina added, “Employers must know that the EEOC will seek redress where an employer violates the law and bases an employment decision on conjecture about an employee’s medical condition and ability to perform his or her job.”
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.