Legal

A Stinker of an ADA Lawsuit: Employee Claims Illegal Firing Over Excessive Gas

By Jon Hyman

Oct. 5, 2015

A New Jersey pork roll manufacturer is accused of unlawfully firing an employee because of his excessive flatulence in the office. The Huffington Post has the details:

Richard Clem started working at Case Pork Roll in 2004 as a comptroller and believes he did a good job…. At the time of his hire, Clem weighed about 420 pounds, but underwent gastric bypass surgery in October 2010, to get rid of his own porky belly…. He’s also suffered some embarrassing side effects, including “extreme gas and uncontrollable diarrhea.” In 2013, Clem’s symptoms worsened, which caused “significant disruption in the workplace,” according to the suit.

Louann Clem, who began her job at Case Pork Roll in 2008, said company president Thomas Dolan repeatedly griped about her husband’s gassy problem. The suit alleges Dolan made Richard Clem work at home and said things like, “We cannot run an office and have visitors with the odor in the office,” and “Tell Rich we are having complaints from people who have problems with the odors.” Richard Clem was fired from Case Pork Roll on February 28, 2014,  Louann Clem quit the same day “because of the harassment and discrimination her husband faced as a result of his disability and the resulting symptoms.”

The lawsuit, brought by the wife, not by the employee, claims that she was discriminated against because of her association with an employee with a disability. The claimed disability? Obesity. (You can download a PDF of the lawsuit here).

I’m not sure what the company could have done differently to accommodate this employee and his issue. An employee has to be able to work without offending co-workers and customers. It appears that the company offered (or required, depending on your perspective) tele-work as an accommodation. The extreme flatulence is one thing, but when you factor in “uncontrollable diarrhea,” what else was this employer supposed to do?

Jon Hyman is a partner in the Employment & Labor practice at Wickens Herzer Panza. Contact Hyman at JHyman@Wickenslaw.com.

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