Drug rehab center sued after terminating obese employee

Michelle Massey Oct. 6, 2010, 6:00am

A Louisiana drug and alcohol rehabilitation center is being sued for allegedly discriminating against an obese employee and for illegally terminating her employment.

On behalf of Lisa Harrison, through her estate, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed suit against Resources for Human Development Inc. d/b/a Family House of Louisiana on Sept. 30 in federal court in New Orleans.

According to the lawsuit, Harrison had severe obesity, which is a physical impairment within the meaning of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

She began working for the defendant in 1999 and was fired from her position of "Prevention/Intervention Specialist" on Sept. 6, 2007.

At the time of her termination, Harrison was substantially limited in major life activities, including walking, but she was able to perform the essential functions of her position with or without accommodation, the suit claims.

Prior to her death, Harrison initiated a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.

The defendant is accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and Harrison's civil rights by terminating her employment because of her obesity related disability.

The EEOC is asking the court to issue a permanent injunction against the defendant to prevent the future illegal termination of individuals who are disabled and to order the defendant to institute and carry out policies, practices and programs to provide equal employment opportunities for qualified individuals with disabilities.

On behalf of Harrison, the EEOC is also seeking damages for back pay with interest, past pecuniary losses, past nonpecuniary losses for emotional and mental anguish, pain and suffering, humiliation, loss of enjoyment of life, devastation, punitive damages, interest and court costs.

Counsel P. David Lopez, James L. Lee, Gwendolyn Young Reams and Jim Sacher are representing the EEOC. Attorneys Gregory T. Juge and Tanya L. Goldman are also representing the EEOC. A jury trial is requested.

U.S. District Judge Ivan L. R. Lemelle is assigned to the case.

Case No. 2:10cv03322

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