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EEOC lawsuit alleges woman fired because of prosthetic leg

Published: Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 9:31 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — CHICAGO — A Chicago-area woman with a prosthetic leg was wrongfully terminated from a temporary job because of her disability, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleged in a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

The EEOC sued the staffing company, Staffmark Investment LLC, as well as its client, Sony Electronics, for allegedly violating the Americans With Disabilities Act.

In October 2010, Staffmark hired Dorothy Shanks to inspect Sony televisions at a Romeoville, Ill., facility, the EEOC said.

Staffmark removed Shanks from the job on her second day of employment. She was told by a Staffmark employee that she would be moved to another job where she could sit, the EEOC said.

Shanks, 60, of Plano, Ill., had her right leg amputated at the knee as the result of an accident in 2008, the EEOC said.

Staffmark never sent Shanks to work on any other job assignments even though she repeatedly called seeking work, the federal agency said.

The agency’s district director in Chicago, John Rowe, said Shanks had performed her job with no difficulty but was fired because of unjustified fears about her having a prosthetic leg.

The EEOC alleges that Staffmark complied with Sony Electronics’ decision to fire Shanks. Shanks’ supervisors at the Romeoville facility were Sony employees, the EEOC said.

An attorney for Cincinnati-based Staffmark declined to comment, and Staffmark officials could not be reached for comment.

Randy Kamen, vice president and associate general counsel at Sony Electronics, said the suit lacks merit and the company intends to vigorously defend itself. Kamen said she also was surprised the EEOC decided to pursue the suit because it involves an individual plaintiff who had been employed for only two days.

Because of limited resources the EEOC filed a reduced number of lawsuits in the year ended Sept. 30. The agency also is focused on bringing cases involving a pattern of alleged employment discrimination or a class of individuals.

Ann Henry, an EEOC attorney in Chicago handling the suit, said the alleged bias against Shanks is not the kind of violation the agency is going to let slide.

“We are focused on bigger cases but not to the exclusion of individual cases,” Henry said.

The EEOC said the suit was filed after attempts to reach a voluntary settlement failed.

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