Duluth lumber company to settle disability discrimination complaint for $100,000

An employee was reassigned and then fired after returning from heart surgery.

Lumber piles at Lake State Lumber stand taller than a parked semi in May of 2015. (Steve Kuchera /

Lake States Lumber Inc. of Duluth will pay $100,000 to resolve a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to a release issued by the agency Friday.

The suit alleged that an employee of the Duluth company took a medical leave to undergo heart surgery, and when he returned to work with no work restrictions, he was reassigned to a different job, which he held for just nine days before his dismissal.

The EEOC contends the company's actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Under the terms of the settlement, Lake States Lumber provides not only financial relief, but also will be bound by a two-year consent decree that stipulates that in the future the company will not require employees to be released without restrictions or to be identified as 100% healthy in order to return to work. Lake States managers and personnel also will be required to undergo ADA training, and the company is required to report any disability discrimination complaints that might arise to directly the EEOC during the two-year term of the decree.

"It is an unfortunate reality that even when an employee who has been on disability leave is able to return to work without any restriction at all, many employers continue to regard that employee as unable to work in the same capacity as prior to the leave," said Gregory Gochanour, an EEOC regional attorney, in a statement. "The consent decree sends the message that no type of disabiility discrimination, including this variety, will be tolerated in the workplace."


When asked for comment late Friday afternoon, Lake States Lumber referred the News Tribune to a corporate attorney, but that person, in another time zone, was unavailable.

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