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Forsyth County company settles lawsuit over firing employee with mental disabilities
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Heritage Charity Auctions & Awards, Inc., a custom framing company in Forsyth County, has reached a settlement for a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dealing with the firing of a former employee with mental disabilities. (GoogleMaps)

A Forsyth County company has reached a settlement for a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission dealing with the firing of a former employee with mental disabilities.

Heritage Charity Auctions & Awards, Inc., a custom framing company, “will pay $19,000 and provide other significant relief “to settle the suit, which was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, according to a news release from the EEOC.

"The EEOC is committed to ending disability discrimination in Georgia and across the country," said Antonette Sewell, regional attorney for the EEOC's Atlanta District Office in a news release. "The ADA was passed, in part, to combat prejudices of employers who make assumptions about their employees' ability to work. The EEOC is pleased that Heritage agreed to resolve this lawsuit by compensating [the employee] and making the changes necessary to ensure other employees with disabilities can request needed accommodations."

Along with the settlement, the company has signed a two-year consent decree, which will include adopting and implementing a written policy on the American Disabilities Act and a policy for reasonable accommodation requests and periodic reports to the EEOC.

According to the court filing, the employee was fired after telling a manager they had mental disabilities and needed accommodation.

Per the court documents, after the employee told the manager about their issues, officials told the employee to get a doctor’s note that would give a “complete understanding of [the] situation.”

When the employee reached out to get more information on what should be included in the note, their calls were not returned.

"An employer cannot send an employee home based solely on its prejudice and fears when an employee discloses a mental health issue,” Darrell E. Graham, district director of the Atlanta office, said in the release. “Heritage made the prudent decision to avoid protracted litigation and instead move forward with productive steps to ensure future compliance with the ADA."

An attorney representing Heritage said the company does not comment on litigation but “has and continues to provide equal employment opportunities in accordance with the law.”