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Woman sues auto parts maker over disability discrimination

Though Hitachi Ltd. was founded more than a century ago in Japan, the company's reach today is global, with products ranging from electronics to construction equipment, and from railway systems to auto parts.

Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas, Inc., a worldwide supplier of aftermarket auto parts, was recently named in a disability discrimination lawsuit for failing to grant a worker an accommodation for her disability - and then firing her.

Interestingly, Hitachi Automotive Systems Americas, Inc., has a Wisconsin connection. Among the firms listed in the Hitachi Group directory is Waupaca Foundry, Inc., a central Wisconsin firm about two hours northwest of Milwaukee.

According to the lawsuit, an assembly operator at a Hitachi manufacturing facility has a medical condition that requires her to take frequent restroom breaks. The worker received both positive reviews and an offer of permanent employment. During the screening process, the woman asked for an accommodation to allow her to take restroom breaks in addition to her lunch break and scheduled break.

Rather than grant the request, the company shifted its position on her, deciding she was unable to perform the job (though she had already proven to their satisfaction that she could) and then rescinding the job offer.

The federal government's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission said Hitachi violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by making its employment decision based on the worker's disability. The only time that's allowed is when granting an accommodation would impose an undue hardship on the company.

"Employers must accept their legal responsibility to evaluate each employee's situation without bias and unfounded assumptions," said an EEOC spokesperson.

If a Milwaukee employer has denied you a job, raise, promotion or benefits because of a disability, contact Alan C. Olson and Associates to discuss legal options available to protect your rights and career.

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