The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has filed a lawsuit against a Minnesota payroll company on behalf of Shannon Enstad, who alleges she was fired because she had to use crutches after a knee surgery.
In February 2018, Enstad tore her anterior cruciate ligament, an injury that’s covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. By April 30, 2018, her doctor cleared her to return to work as an account manager at Employer Solutions Group, LLC with the use of crutches.
According to the lawsuit, the company said that Enstad wasn’t 100% from the surgery and that she would “without any objective evidence… be a safety risk if she returned on crutches.”
Enstad understood that the crutches would make it more challenging to get around and that she wouldn’t be able to lift items like she did before. However, because her job deals with managing sales and customer relationships, she thought that she could still fulfill her duties with limited mobility.
Enstad was terminated shortly after she returned to work on crutches.
“When I read the termination e-mail, I cried,” Enstad said. “I couldn’t believe what I was reading, especially, since I had just spoken with ESG the same day and was told they were excited to have me back. … I was full of emotions: sadness, anger, hurt and humiliated.”
Carissa Huffman, ESG’s claims and benefits manager, however, says that the claims in the lawsuit aren’t true. She said that the company didn’t receive a note from a doctor until a few days after they decided to end her employment.
Huffman added that Enstad gave the company a return date before she changed her mind and that the termination was caused by the company not knowing “when or if she ever was going to return to work.”
The EEOC tried to settle with the company before filing the lawsuit.
“The issue here was so minor,” said Julianne Bowman, district director of the EEOC’s Chicago office. “This employee needed to use crutches for a short time after returning from short-term disability leave. The employer fired her for it, which was inappropriate, shortsighted and unlawful.”
The EEOC seeks to get Enstad reinstated at her previous job and for her to receive back pay, benefits and compensation for “emotional pain, suffering, inconvenience, loss of enjoyment of life, and humiliation.”