Houma, LA (WorkersCompensation.com) – A Louisiana pressure washing business has been ordered to pay a former foreman $90,000 after firing him due to his hearing loss, federal officials say.
Tamco Professional Coating Services, of Houma, LA, agreed to the fine to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in May. According to the lawsuit, Tamco fired its foreperson, Filemon Saldana, after he filed a workers’ compensation claim for hearing loss.
In 2008, Saldana began working with Tamco, as a laborer. By 2016, he had been promoted to foreperson. But in 2017, Saldana informed Tamco that he had suffered hearing loss and subsequently filed a workers’ compensation claim for it. Saldana said, according to court records, that he was told by the business owner, Tamara McClanahan, that he should not have done that.
“Ms. McClanahan told Mr. Saldana and Mrs. Saldana that Mr. Saldana should not have spoken with a lawyer about his hearing loss,” court records said. “Ms. McClanahan mentioned Tamco’s workers’ compensation insurance premiums to Mr. Saldana and Mrs. Saldana… Ms. McClanahan was concerned that Tamco’s workers’ compensation insurance costs would increase because of Mr. Saldana’s workers’ compensation claim.”
The premiums did increase and in October 2018, McClanahan fired Saldana for not wearing personal protective devices (PPD).
According to the EEOC, no one at the company had ever been fired for not wearing a PPD, and Saldana had not ever been informed that he would be fired for not wearing a PPD.
“Tamco had never terminated anyone for failing to wear PPE before it terminated Mr. Saldana. Tamco had never terminated anyone without providing a written or oral warning before it terminated Mr. Saldana,” the filing said.
The EEOC filed suit against Tamco for failing to follow its own procedures, and for discriminating against Saldana because of his hearing loss, a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
“It is important for employers to know that they cannot fire an employee in an attempt to avoid increased insurance costs resulting from the employee’s physical or mental impairment,” said Rudy Sustaita, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Houston District Office, in a statement.
The settlement covers backpay and damages to Saldana. Under the agreement, the company also will conduct training to prevent further incidents.
Tamco could not be reached for comment. Phone numbers listed for the company were either disconnected or rang to a personal answering machine that was not accepting voicemail. Emails to Tamara McClanahan were not returned.