A woman is suing a Los Angeles document shredding company, alleging she was forced to lift heavy items despite having asthma and fired in 2018 for seeking accommodations for her medical appointments and child care needs.
Ebonee Garnett’s Los Angeles Superior Court lawsuit against Iron Mountain Secure Shredding Inc. alleges disability discrimination and harassment, retaliation and failure to prevent the conditions outlined in her complaint.
Garnett seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the case filed Tuesday.
An Iron Mountain representative did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
Garnett began working for Iron Mountain in August 2017 as a driver and shredder. She transported materials from clients to Iron Mountain locations and also loaded and unloaded the items, requiring significant physical strength and stamina, according to her court papers.
In January 2018, Garnett suffered an asthma attack and her doctor issued a work order restricting her from lifting anything heavier than 50 pounds for six months, the suit states. Garnett gave the physician’s note to her managers, who accommodated her work restrictions for about a month before directing her to go back to her physician and get medical clearance to work at full capacity, according to the suit.
One of Garnett’s bosses told her that they could not accommodate someone on a restriction for a full six months and that getting her doctor’s permission to lift heavier items again would help prevent her firing, the suit alleges.
“Garnett immediately felt discriminated against and harassed based on her disability…,” the suit states.
Fearing she would lose her job, Garnett obtained clearance to work at full capacity again, but she noticed a pattern of “unjust, discriminatory and/or retaliatory treatment directed toward her,” the suit alleges.
She was no longer provided an assistant to aid her in loading and unloading heavy materials, and had to ask office workers and hospital staffers who did not work for Iron Mountain to help her carry heavy boxes, according to the suit.
While covering a co-worker’s shift, Garnett suffered another athsma attack in August 2018 during her route, leaving her wheezing and unable to finish an assignment involving heavy items at a hospital, the suit states.
When advised of her asthma attack, a supervisor texted her to “do your best and keep dispatch updated,” the suit states. Garnett, still suffering from a shortness of breath, says she drove to another hospital for treatment of her asthma.
Iron Mountain thereafter placed Garnett on light duty for a few days, but she was soon back to working at full capacity without an assistant, the suit states. She alleges that her employer repeatedly prevented her from visiting her physician for scheduled appointments, and that she was told on one occasion that it was because the “calendar was full.”
Garnett was also often denied time off to visit her child care worker at the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, and in another incident was denied the chance to take her two nieces, of whom she has legal custody, to an appointment at the DCFS, the suit states.
The company fired Garnett in September 2018 and Iron Mountain management told her it was due to an “accumulation of occurrences related to attendance, communication and insubordination for taking time off to make her personal appointments,” the suit states.
The plaintiff alleges the reasons given for losing her job were a “blatant pretext to cover up Iron Mountain’s failure to accommodate Garnett’s medical condition and disability as well as her child care needs.”
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