Worker with back condition fired after asking for ergonomic chair in Virginia, feds say

A worker with a back condition was fired from a Virginia-based company after she requested an ergonomic chair, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The department filed a lawsuit against Resource Metrix, a management consulting and software development company in Alexandria that contracts with the military and the federal government, on Sept. 29 and accused it of discriminating against the employee because of her disability, according to a news release.

Resource Metrix did not immediately return a request for comment from McClatchy News on Oct. 5.

Before the employee was hired in 2019, she told hiring managers and human resources administrators about her disability and said she would need an ergonomic chair in order to work, according to the release.

She has “regular neck pain that makes it difficult to sit still,” according to the lawsuit.

The woman arrived for her first day of work on Sept. 3, 2019, and did not have an ergonomic chair to sit in, the Labor Department said. The company gave her a “substitute chair” that exacerbated her back condition.

She told human resources about the problem on Sept. 6 and was given permission to leave work to go see a doctor, the lawsuit says. The company told her that it would get her an ergonomic chair.

Her doctor sent a note to her employer confirming her condition and saying that she required special accommodations to be able to work, according to the Department of Labor.

The worker received an email from the company on Sept. 10 saying that she had been terminated for not showing up, even though her absences had been excused while she waited for the company to acquire the ergonomic chair, the lawsuit says.

When she told her boss that she had been on leave while she waited for the chair, he replied, “Don’t give me that disability excuse,” the lawsuit says.

The Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs mid-Atlantic regional director Samuel Maiden called the company’s actions “discriminatory and unacceptable,” in a statement.

“Companies will not be permitted to reap the benefits of contracting with the federal government while unlawfully discriminating in their employment process based on one’s disability,” Maiden said.

The U.S. Department of Labor is seeking “position reinstatement, back and front pay, interest, retroactive seniority and all other employment benefits for the employee who was terminated,” according to the release.

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