The Chicago Employment Law Blog

Oh, Oh, No O'Reilly! Auto Parts Store Sued by Disabled Ex-Manager

O'Reilly Automotive Stores found itself in court last week, after the EEOC filed its third of three major employment discrimination lawsuits on one fateful Friday. The lawsuit alleges that the O'Reilly Auto Parts store in Beloit, Wis., fired its manager after refusing him time off to deal with a medical impairment.

The facts, as alleged by the EEOC, portray what might be a textbook example of a reasonable accommodation request by an employee. Heath Craft, the former manager of the Beloit branch, was diagnosed with a seizure disorder in February 2011. When he requested a month's leave to deal with the disorder, the company not only denied the request, but fired him on March 31, 2011.

Both the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family Medical Leave Act require employers to provide unpaid leave to employees who are dealing with an illness. Though the FMLA is not as far reaching as the ADA in terms of employees and illnesses covered, between the two, Craft's disability should have qualified.

Time off, and other accommodations such as a change in shifts or working environment, must be made by an employer unless that accommodation results in an undue hardship for the employer. For example, an employer probably wouldn't be required to hold an employee's position open if that worker takes five years off.

On the other hand, Heath Craft's request for one month off in order to get his seizure disorder under control certainly seems reasonable. Unless O'Reilly can show that it would be unduly burdened by such an arrangement, or that independent good cause exists for his termination, they might be held liable for Craft's lost wages and other damages as provided by federal and local laws, such as attorney's fees.

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