Northeastern, Pa. brewery sued for discriminatory firing

By Jon Campisi | Feb 15, 2012

A Northeastern Pennsylvania man has filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer, alleging his firing violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

A Northeastern Pennsylvania man has filed a federal lawsuit against his former employer, alleging his firing violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Cherry Hill, N.J. attorneys Richard S. Swartz, Justin L. Swidler and Manali Arora, of the firm Swartz Swidler LLC, filed the complaint Feb. 13 at federal court in Philadelphia on behalf of Kingston, Pa. resident Thomas Oney.

The defendant named in the lawsuit is the Wilkes-Barre, Pa.-based Lion Brewery.

In his complaint, Oney, who was hired by the defendant in the spring of 2007 as a machine operator, claims the defendant discriminated against him because of a foot injury.

In late November 2010, after seeking medical treatment for severe foot pain, Oney was diagnosed by a physician as having plantar fasciitis.

The condition made standing for long periods of time difficult, so Oney requested special accommodations while at work, specifically, he asked to be provided with a stool so he could periodically sit throughout his shifts in order to alleviate his food pain, the lawsuit states.

“Plaintiff’s ability to complete his job duties would have remained unaffected had Defendant simply provided Plaintiff with the requested accommodation,” the lawsuit states.

A supervisor, however, turned down Oney’s request, telling the plaintiff that the company “does not accept doctors notes,” according to the complaint.

The failure to accommodate made working life difficult for Oney, the suit states, especially in light of the fact that he was often scheduled to work back-to-back eight-hour shifts, resulting in Oney “effectively being required to spend 16 consecutive hours on his feet.”

Oney regularly requested that his supervisors provide him with the opportunity to take breaks during these double shifts, the lawsuit claims, but the request was always refused.

Oney’s medical condition worsened between November 2010 and January 2011, the suit states, and as a result, Oney had to take off from work on eight different occasions.

The defendant, however, never provided Oney with information regarding his rights under the Family Medical Leave Act, so when Oney had to call out sick from work because of the flu, he learned he was being fired for “excessive absenteeism,” the suit states.

The lawsuit claims that the brewery actually terminated Oney’s employment because of his medical condition.

“Defendant fired Plaintiff due to his actual or perceived disability and/or for requesting reasonable accommodations due to his disability, in violation of the ADA; and/or Defendant fired Plaintiff due to his need to take some time off from work due to his own serious health condition, in violation of the FMLA,” the lawsuit states.

The complaint contains counts of disability discrimination, failure to accommodate, retaliation and interference.

Oney seeks to have the company prohibited from continuing its policy of discriminating against employees based on their need to take FMLA qualifying leave and/or their health conditions.

Oney also seeks unspecified compensatory, punitive and liquidated damages, in addition to damages for emotional distress and pain and suffering, as well as litigation costs.

A jury trial is being demanded.

The federal case number is 2:12-cv-00748-PD.

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