Shannon Enstad had a rough winter in 2018. She tore her ACL. In order to knit the ligament in her knee back together, she got surgery in March. But it would still take six months to fully heal–along with regular physical therapy.
She was ready to go back to work in April. She told her employer–an Eden Prairie payroll servicing company called Employer Solutions Group (ESG)–that she’d be returning on crutches. The pain from her knee was still intense, and she wasn’t able to stand, walk, or lift things as well as she used to, but she still figured she could do her job as an account manager just fine.
However, according to a complaint filed by the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission on Wednesday, ESG told her she couldn’t return because she “was not 100 percent healed.”
“ESG asserted, without any objective evidence, that Enstad would be a safety risk if she returned on crutches,” the complaint says. And that’s why ESG fired her.
Enstad had turned to the Commission for help because she believed she’d been fired for her disability, however temporary. The Commission says it invited ESG to talk this out and “provide appropriate relief.” But the company failed to cooperate. So the Commission is suing ESG for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.
Commission officials are calling this case not just “illegal,” but “inexplicable.”
“The issue here was so minor,” Chicago District Office Director Julianne Bowman said in a statement. “This employee needed to use crutches for a short time after returning from short-term disability leave. The employer fired her for it, which was inappropriate, short-sighted, and unlawful.”
ESG declined to comment on this story, so we don’t know what the company’s justification was. But if the Commission wins this suit, it wants ESG to change its ways, shell out Enstad’s back pay and benefits, and reinstate her at the wage “she would have been entitled [to] had ESG not discriminated against her,” crutches or no.