An Essex County trucking company is on the hook to pay a former employee $30,000 after allegedly firing him for his sleep apnea condition despite medical examinations that determined he was fit for duty.
P. Judge & Sons Inc. owes the former employee – referred to as R.B. in a statement by the attorney general’s office – $15,000 in lost wages and $15,000 for alleged pain and suffering.
R.B. had worked as a yard switcher at the P. Judge & Sons facility in Port Newark, conducting vehicle inspections, maintaining the yard and emptying containers and trailers from the yard to the docks.
He was diagnosed with sleep apnea and placed on medical leave in March 2015, and then underwent treatment that prompted Concentra Medical Center to clear him to go back to work. Despite the clearance, P. Judge & Sons refused to reinstate his job and after further health clearance and seven months of unemployment, he filed a complaint with the Division of Civil Rights.
“This case should serve as a reminder to employers across New Jersey that our Law Against Discrimination prevents disability discrimination, and we are committed to ensuring those rights are protected,” said Attorney General Gurbir Grewal in a statement. “In the face of repeated certifications of fitness for duty by licensed medical professionals, employers simply do not have authority to impose their own, uninformed biases and terminate a person with a disability.”
During the investigation, a company official at P. Judge & Sons told investigators that R.B. was not permitted back to work because he was still receiving treatment for his sleep apnea, and the company is “under no obligation to employ individuals whose health is noncompliant.”
In addition to paying the $30,000, P. Judge & Sons is required under the settlement to adopt workplace policy and training reforms and to allow the state to monitor its treatment of employees and applicants with disabilities for the next two years.
P. Judge & Sons did not return a request for comment by press time.