The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has accused Herbruck’s Poultry Ranch of subjecting a worker to a hostile work environment because of her disability and retaliating against her for complaining about what she saw as a hostile work environment.

EEOC filed a lawsuit against Herbruck’s for the alleged actions, asserting that the egg company violated federal law in doing so.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Melinda Crooke was a line worker for the Michigan-based egg company. After her supervisor learned about her disability-related symptoms, she was mocked on a weekly basis by her co-workers and supervisor because of those symptoms, the lawsuit alleges.

Crooke allegedly complained about the mocking nicknames and physical imitation of her symptoms, but EEOC said nothing was done to stop it. Instead, the harassment by the supervisor worsened, the EEOC said.

EEOC alleges that Crooke’s supervisor then began to follow her to the bathroom to time her breaks. On April 10, 2015, after her supervisor allegedly followed her into the bathroom and shouted at her, Crooke again complained to a person in human resources, who did nothing but advise Crooke to return to her shift, EEOC stated in a press release. Finding the return to the same work environment unbearable, Crooke quit her job, the commission alleged in its lawsuit.

Creating a hostile work environment because of a disability and retaliating against an employee for complaints about it violate the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which also prohibits employers from making working conditions so intolerable that employees believe they have to leave, EEOC stated. The EEOC seeks to recover monetary compensation for Crooke in the form of back pay and compensatory damages for emotional distress, as well as punitive damages.

The EEOC filed the suit (EEOC v. Herbruck Poultry Ranch Inc., Case No. 1:19-cv-00165) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

"An employer cannot condone a work environment where an employee with an impairment is ridiculed because of it," EEOC Trial Attorney Dale Price said in the press release. "It must step in to stop such behavior. The EEOC will vigorously pursue violations of the ADA and seek injunctive relief when employers fail to act promptly and appropriately."