BROOKSVILLE — A local cable and circuit board manufacturer has agreed to pay $35,000 to a former employee after it was accused of demoting and then firing her because she was diagnosed with a mental illness.
The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a lawsuit in Tampa federal court against the company, Interconnect Cable Technologies Corporation, in March. The commission said the Brooksville company’s actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. Interconnect Cable Technologies had fired the employee in 2017 after she had been with the company for more than two decades.
The commission announced the parties reached a settlement earlier this month.
“Demoting or firing individuals because of disability, whether physical or mental, violates federal law,” said Evangeline Hawthorne, director of the commission’s Tampa field office, in a statement. “This resolution brings the EEOC closer to achieving its mission of eliminating disability discrimination from America’s workplace.”
In court documents, the manufacturing company denied any wrongdoing and said it was resolving the lawsuit with the settlement agreement to avoid further litigation. Attorneys for the company did not immediately return emails or voicemails requesting comment.
The employee had been involuntarily hospitalized for five days under the Baker Act in June 2017, according to the lawsuit. She was diagnosed with a major depressive disorder. She told managers about her condition when she returned to work following her hospital stay. Despite a history of steady promotions, after telling her managers about her diagnosis, she was stripped of her title, removed from her usual tasks, and soon assigned a lower role making $2 less per hour, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Four months later, she was fired.
At that time, the lawsuit says the company told her it was firing her because they no longer had available assembly work — even though, by then, the employee was working in a stock room.
In addition to the $35,000 for the worker, the settlement agreement requires the the manufacturing company to appoint an American with Disabilities Act coordinator, develop and distribute a written policy against discrimination and conduct anti-discrimination training for its employees.
The company is also required to post a notice about the lawsuit at its worksites and send annual written reports to the commission for the next three years.