EEOC Rips Employer Under ADA for Firing Employee Who Wouldn’t Cancel Overseas Trip

How’s this for acting on fear rather than evidence? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is suing an employer it says fired an employee because she wouldn’t cancel her trip to Ghana.

According to the EEOC, officials at STME LLC, which operates a Massage Envy franchise in south Tampa,  insisted Kimberly Lowe cancel her approved vacation plans because they feared her travel would lead to a potentially catastrophic outbreak of Ebola in the United States, and fired her when she refused to do so. The EEOC said that the company discharged Lowe because it regarded her as disabled based on its unfounded fears and beliefs about Ebola in Ghana and the risk that she would contract Ebola on her trip.

“Making employment decisions based on perceptions of disability clearly violates federal civil rights law,” said the EEOC’s Tampa Field Director Evangeline Hawthorne. “All employers need to be aware that the EEOC will continue to enforce the ADA vigorously.”

“In passing the Americans with Disabilities Act, Congress sought to protect people from being discriminated against based on unsubstantiated fears, myths, and unfounded stereotypes about actual or perceived disabilities,” added Robert Weisberg, regional attorney for the Miami District Office. “The employer conduct which the EEOC found in this case flouts the fundamental purpose of that very important law.”

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