$5.5 Million Reasons Why Pennsylvania Employer Shouldn’t Have Fired Disabled Man
New supervisor terminated worker who was able to do his job with accommodations
When a new supervisor starts, workers often expect a little bit of upheaval. After all, a change in command is likely to shake things up a little bit.
However, Albert Gucker, who had been suffering from arthritis for years, never imagined that his new supervisor at U.S. Steel would react so strongly to the news of his condition – or that his job might be on the line because of it.
In the end, it’s likely that this Pennsylvania employer learned a hard – and expensive – lesson about terminating disabled workers in a state that allows generous damage awards in discrimination cases.
Let’s take a look at what happened in this case and then talk about what it means to other workers who may be suffering from a disability.
Lifting Restrictions Were a Deal Breaker
Gucker had been employed by U.S. Steel for over 30 years in various positions. His most-recent job was repairing heavy equipment at the company’s Irvin Works facility near Pittsburgh.
After being diagnosed with arthritis in one of his knees, Gucker asked for and received job modifications to accommodate his condition. For example, he had a lifting restriction of 30 pounds and he was excused climbing.
In 2011, a new supervisor began overseeing Gucker’s area. At that time, Gucker had been doing his modified job for more than a decade.
But, according to Gucker’s lawsuit, everything changed the day his new supervisor found out about the lifting restrictions. Gucker states that the new supervisor called him into the office and told him that he should get off the property until he was able to work without limitations.
Eventually Gucker was given a new job description, along with the requirement that he pass a physical exam before being allowed to return to work.
However, Gucker believed that the exam was meant to disqualify him. He was suspended without pay.
Gucker spoke to an attorney and sued U.S. Steel for violating his rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Pennsylvania state laws against discrimination.
The company attempted to have the case thrown out. It claimed that the supervisor’s actions were intended to protect Gucker from injury, because the supervisor believed Gucker’s physical restrictions would jeopardize his safety.
The court refused to throw out the case. The matter was heard by a jury.
Gucker was awarded $550,000 in compensatory damages and $5 million in punitive damages.
The company is now attempting to have the award capped at $300,000, which is the limit set by the ADA.
However, Gucker’s legal team was smart enough to sue under both the federal and the state discrimination laws. They point out that Pennsylvania’s discrimination law doesn’t have a cap on compensatory damage awards.
(The case discussed here is Gucker v. U.S. Steel.)
Contact the Murphy Law Group Now for a Free Consultation
As this case shows, it’s important to make sure that you’re aware of your rights under both federal and state laws if you’ve been discriminated against because of a disability.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call (267) 273-1054 for a free consultation.