A Southwest regional trucking company based in Rillito, Ariz., which fired two employees after they took medical leave, is facing a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. government..
CTI Inc. was named in the class-action suit filed in Tucson federal court Sept. 30 by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The commission announced the lawsuit in a news release Thursday.
The commission alleges that other employees besides the two named in the suit were fired because of their disabilities or because they needed reasonable accommodations when they returned to work.
The company will not comment while the lawsuit is pending, said Kerry Barrette, human-resources director for CTI. CTI's attorney, Paul Relich, did not return a call Thursday.
CTI is a trucking company that employs more than 400 workers and hauls dry bulk, chemicals and hazardous materials in Arizona, California, Texas and New Mexico. It's located at 11105 N. Casa Grande Highway in Rillito, near Marana.
"We are very concerned about companies who have a policy that says you have to be totally recovered, 100 percent healthy to return to work," said Mary Jo O'Neill, a regional attorney for the federal commission in Phoenix.
"Those policies are very problematic under the Americans with Disabilities Act," O'Neill said.
CTI also has a very rigid leave policy, said O'Neill, and does not make accommodations for workers who need more time off before returning to work.
She said that also violates the disabilities act.
According to the suit:
Elizabeth Barr, who had a rare eye disease that substantially limited her eyesight, worked at CTI as a payroll and billing clerk from 2002 to 2010.
Barr needed surgeries to correct her eyesight, and she requested and used leave under the Family Medical Leave Act.
Before the expiration of her leave, CTI informed Barr that if her doctor did not release her to "full, unrestricted duty" her employment and benefits might be terminated.
Barr asked for additional time to recover, but CTI denied her requests and refused to explore possible accommodations with her, and she was fired.
Another worker, Myron Pruett, who had respiratory conditions, worked at CTI as a truck driver from 2003 to 2010.
Pruett was off work for 12 weeks for treatment and recovery from his respiratory illness. He wanted to return to work, but he wanted to work in another position. He was fired.
The lawsuit seeks monetary damages, including back pay, compensation for emotional distress and punitive damages. The suit also asks that those affected be rehired and for other relief to prevent discriminatory practices.
CTI Inc., a Southwest regional trucking company based in Rillito, Ariz. denies that it engages in disability discrimination as alleged in a lawsuit filed by the federal government.
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