March 29, 2023
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Global Payments Company Denied Worker’s Pleas for Remote Work Due to High Risk for COVID-19 Infection, Federal Agency Charges
Total Systems Services, LLC, a global payments processing company based in Columbus, Georgia, violated federal law by denying repeated requests by an employee with a disability for remote work as a reasonable accommodation due to increased risks related to COVID-19, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today. The company further violated the law by retaliating against her for taking medical leave to avoid exposure, the EEOC said.
According to the EEOC’s suit, from May through August 2020, a customer service representative with a disability in a Total Systems’ call center repeatedly requested to work remotely as a reasonable accommodation because of her high-risk status with respect to COVID-19. At the time, the employee’s call center co-workers were regularly testing positive for the virus, the EEOC said.
On the advice of her doctor, the employee requested remote work after a May 2020 workplace COVID-19 exposure. Total Systems denied the employee’s reasonable accommodation request.
To avoid further exposure — and the increased risks she faced if she contracted COVID-19 — the employee went on medical leave until a remote position became available. By the time the employee’s leave expired in July 2020, most of the department was working remotely, but Total Systems continued to deny the employee’s reasonable accommodation request. The employee was forced to resign in August 2020 to ensure her safety, the EEOC said.
Total Systems’ conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit (Civil Action No. 1:23-CV-1311-WMR-JSA) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement via its conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory damages, and punitive damages for the employee, as well as injunctive relief to prevent future discrimination.
“The ADA requires employers to reasonably accommodate employees with disabilities – and this is not a suggestion,” said Marcus G. Keegan, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Atlanta District Office. Keegan said. “Employers who retaliate against employees for exercising their rights under the ADA, as Total Systems did here, expose themselves to additional liability under the statute.”
Darrell Graham, district director of the Atlanta office, said, “The employee did everything she could to protect her health and perform her job at the same time. The EEOC is resolute in its mission to enforce the ADA and protect the rights of employees with disabilities.”
For more information on disability discrimination, please visit eeoc.gov/disability-discrimination.
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