Company Fired Diver Because He Had Been Treated for Cancer, Federal Agency Charges
HOUSTON, TX (STL.News) T&T Subsea, LLC, a Galveston marine services company, violated federal law when it fired an employee after he recovered from cancer surgery, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed on September 30, 2019.
According to the EEOC’s suit, a diver/tender hired by T&T in June 2015 was diagnosed with cancer in December 2015. He received chemotherapy and radiation treatment in December 2015 and January 2016. After returning to full duty, he again took leave for surgery in April 2016. When he attempted to return to work at the end of August 2016, after recuperating from surgery, the diver was prohibited from doing so and terminated by T&T.
The EEOC alleges that T&T invoked a rule that a diver had to wait five years after chemotherapy to return to his job; T&T did not have the diver examined by a physician to determine his fitness to work. The EEOC asserts that T&T’s actions violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana (Civil Action No. 2:19-cv-12874) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The federal agency seeks a permanent injunction prohibiting T&T from engaging in any future disability discrimination. The EEOC also seeks back pay with pre-judgment interest, compensatory and punitive damages, in amounts to be determined at trial, and other relief.
“An employer cannot fire a worker because of myths or fears about the worker’s medical condition, impairment or treatment,” said Keith Hill, director of the EEOC’s New Orleans Field Office.
Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney of the EEOC’s Houston District Office which has jurisdiction over New Orleans, added, “Companies must evaluate each employee’s situation without bias, based solely on actual evidence and science.”
According to company information, T&T Subsea provides a wide variety of services to marine operators, including marine salvage support, ship husbandry, underwater welding, and vessel inspections and repairs, among other underwater services.