Polish Worker Alleges National Origin Discrimination
We’ve blogged before about legal translation services for employment discrimination based on an employee’s national origin. In Krzeptowski v. Corrugated Supplies Company, LLC, the plaintiff was a 64-year-old man of Polish origin who worked for a company that manufactured and distributed cardboard sheets. The plaintiff began working for the company in 2007, and his duties required him to inspect, measures, and assemble cardboard sheets into bundles.
Plaintiff is Harassed and Injured at Work
In March of 2014, the plaintiff’s supervisor allegedly began yelling, screaming, and demeaning the plaintiff in front of his co-workers. According to the plaintiff’s complaint, his supervisor did not treat any of the other employees this way, just the plaintiff. The plaintiff complained to the plant manager about the harassment to no avail. The defendant did nothing to stop the harassment, and the harassment continued. About six months later, the plaintiff injured his shoulder in the course of his employment. The plaintiff was diagnosed with “rotator cuff tendinopathy,” by a doctor at his employer’s designated occupational clinic, an injury which the clinic attributed to his job. The doctor subsequently placed the plaintiff on light duty, which did not involve heavy lifting.
Union Representative Serves as Polish Interpreter in Meeting with Employer
In 2015, the plaintiff was evaluated by an independent medical examiner, who determined that the plaintiff’s shoulder injury was not related to his employment. Thereafter, the plaintiff had a meeting with his employer’s benefits manager and a union representative, who translated the conversation from English into Polish for the Plaintiff. At the meeting, the benefits manager informed the plaintiff that he could not come to work anymore because his light duty position was no longer available. The benefits manager provided the plaintiff with information on the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and short-term disability benefits. The FMLA paperwork required the plaintiff to submit a timely certification form to his employer in order to allow the employer to determine if the plaintiff’s absence qualified for FMLA leave. The forms were written in English, but the plaintiff did not speak or understand English.
Thereafter, the defendant sent the plaintiff a letter informing him that he must provide documentation to support his leave of absence from work. The plaintiff failed to do so, and the defendant terminated him for an unjustified absence from work.
Plaintiff Files Federal Lawsuit
After the Plaintiff was terminated, he filed an action in federal court alleging violations of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA), the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), FMLA, and the Illinois’ Worker’s Compensation Act. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss the Plaintiff’s civil rights, ADEA and FMLA claims. The court ruled as follows on the various aspects of the motions:
Failure to Accommodate Based on National Origin and Age
In his lawsuit, the plaintiff argued that the defendant failed to accommodate his disability due to his national origin and age. The court held that although there is no cause of action for “failure to accommodate” under the ADEA and Title VII, the plaintiff’s claims were more likely discrimination claims, which is prohibited under both acts. In this regard, the court held that the plaintiff had met the minimum pleading requirements under the federal rules of civil procedure. Specifically, the plaintiff had alleged that younger and non-Polish employees were treated better and allowed to work light duty when faced with similar injuries as the plaintiff.
The court also held that the plaintiff’s complaint sufficiently alleged that the plaintiff was terminated because of his age and national origin. The plaintiff alleged in his complaint that his supervisor discriminated against him by terminating him and did not terminate non-Polish employees who were absent and failed to complete the requisite forms.
Hostile Work Environment
The court similarly denied the defendant’s motion to dismiss with respect to the plaintiff’s claim of a hostile work environment. The court held that the plaintiff’s allegations that he was harassed because of his age and his national origin met the pleading requirements.
While the court declined to dismiss the plaintiff’s discrimination, wrongful termination, and hostile work environment claims, the court did dismiss the plaintiff’s retaliation claim based on age and national origin on the grounds that he had not yet exhausted his administrative remedies with respect to this claim. The court explained that litigants who bring claims under the ADEA or Title VII are limited to only those claims mentioned in their EEOC complaint, and the plaintiff’s lawsuit contained allegations of retaliation that were not included in his original EEOC complaint.
The court also granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss the plaintiff’s FMLA claim. The plaintiff argued that the defendant had wrongfully failed to provide him with FMLA paperwork in Polish even though his employer knew that he did not understand English. The court held that even if the employer had failed to provide the plaintiff with paperwork in Polish, the plaintiff had alleged that the defendant brought a Polish interpreter to the meeting where the plaintiff was provided with the FMLA forms. The plaintiff did not allege that the Polish interpreter was in any way was defective or inadequate. Accordingly, the court held that the plaintiff could not proceed with this claim as he had not been prejudiced by the failure to be provided with the FMLA paperwork in Polish.
Based on the foregoing, the court granted the defendant’s motion to dismiss in part and denied it in part.
The case is Andrzej Krezeptowski v. Corrugated Supplies Company, LLC, Court No. 17 CV 938 decided on March 19, 2018 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.
***This legal translations blog should not be construed as legal advice. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal needs.***
Contact All Language Alliance, Inc., provider of legal translation services for the legal industry to request legal interpreters fluent in Polish, Russian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Slovak, Romanian, Czech, Albanian, Serbian, Mandarin Chinese, Korean, Thai, Lao, Filipino, Somali, Arabic for employment discrimination cases.
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