Aerospace Company Refused to Reasonably Accommodate Administrative Assistant with Cognitive Processing Disability, Fired Her, Federal Agency Alleges
Lockheed Martin Corporation and Lockheed Martin Enterprise Operations (together, “Lockheed”) violated federal law when they refused the requests of an administrative assistant with post-concussive syndrome and mild traumatic brain injury for permission to use a transcription or recording device and for other accommodations and then fired her, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed Wednesday.
According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Donna Kerekes began working for Lockheed as an administrative assistant in 2007 and was assigned to provide administrative support to a vice president and other senior management in 2012. In November 2014, as an accommodation for her disability, Kerekes asked Lockheed for permission to use a transcription or recording device to assist her with tracking rapid speech and note-taking. Lockheed refused the request, and Kerekes was forced to take a medical leave of absence as a result. In June 2015, Kerekes’ doctors cleared her to return to work for Lockheed with accommodations, but Lockheed again refused to grant any accommodations. In December 2015, Kerekes submitted a complaint to Lockheed’s ethics office about how Lockheed was handling her accommodations requests, and the next day, Lockheed decided it would not grant Kerekes the accommodations she sought in June 2015 and decided she could not return to work in any capacity. Later that month, Kerekes told Lockheed she needed fewer accommodations and again asked to return to work, but Lockheed again refused and told her she needed to start the accommodations process again and submit new medical documentation. Beginning in December 2015, Lockheed identified open administrative positions that Kerekes was qualified to perform, and Kerekes applied for over a dozen administrative positions with Lockheed that she was qualified to perform, but Lockheed did not reassign her or select her for any of the positions. On February 1, 2016, Lockheed fired Kerekes.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits disability discrimination and retaliation for opposing it and requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to individuals with disabilities unless it would cause an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Lockheed Martin Corporation and Lockheed Martin Enterprise Operations, Case No. 8:18-cv-02976-GJH) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its administrative conciliation process. The EEOC is seeking permanent injunctive relief prohibiting Lockheed from discriminating against employees because of disability in the future, lost wages, compensatory and punitive damages, and other relief.
“Ms. Kerekes could have continued her successful career with Lockheed if the company had complied with the law and provided reasonable accommodations of her disability,” said Mindy E. Weinstein, acting director of the EEOC’s Washington Field Office. “By refusing to make reasonable modifications and adjustments to Ms. Kerekes’ work environment and the way she did her job, Lockheed deprived her of equal employment opportunities because of her disability and violated the ADA.”
EEOC Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence said, “Unfortunately, discrimination against persons with disabilities continues to be a serious and pervasive problem today. As EEOC seeks relief for Ms. Kerekes and others like her, we are committed to combatting the biases, myths, fears, and stereotypes that fuel this type of discrimination.”
The EEOC’s Washington Field Office has jurisdiction over the District of Columbia and the Virginia counties of Arlington, Clarke, Fairfax, Fauquier, Frederick, Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford and Warren; and the independent Virginia cities of Alexandria, Fairfax City, Falls Church, Manassas, Manassas Park and Winchester.