Employees in Pennsylvania or anywhere else in the United States have a right to talk to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). As a general rule, employers are not allowed to take any actions that may chill an employee’s willingness to report discrimination within an organization. This may mean that employers are not allowed to send messages from in-house counsel to employees informing them about actions involving the EEOC.
In a case involving a staffing services company, this exact scenario occurred. A suit brought by the EEOC alleges that the company disclosed the employee’s name as well as his particular disability in the letter. According to the lawsuit, it violated the interference provision of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The company claimed that it sent the letter to alert employees that the EEOC may contact them.
The EEOC claimed that the letter was designed to be retaliatory against the employee and to have a chilling effect on others. A federal court ruled that the retaliation and interference claims could be addressed by a jury. In November 2017, the company agreed to pay the employee $45,000 in addition to injunctive relief.
Generally speaking, employers are required to provide accommodations to workers with disabilities. Failing to do so may be seen as discrimination. It may also be discrimination to deny a worker advancement opportunities or make other employment decisions based on his or her disability. If an employer engages in a potentially illegal activity, an employee may be entitled to compensation. This compensation may come in the form of punitive damages or back pay if the worker was a victim of wrongful termination after making a harassment complaint.