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American Apparel Sued For Firing Worker In Chemotherapy

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — American Apparel, which claims to be the largest garment factory in the U.S. and employs over 5,000 people locally, faces regulatory action for allegedly terminating a garment worker while he was on medical leave for cancer treatment.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission says American Apparel violated federal law when it terminated the unnamed worker after he requested medical leave in order to undergo chemotherapy treatment for cancer, according to the complaint filed in court last week.

The employee's request for medical leave was approved and the garment worker supplied documentation regarding the status of his treatment, according to the EEOC.

Although the garment worker returned to work when he completed treatment, he was subsequently informed that the company no longer had a position for him, resulting in immediate termination, the lawsuit alleges.

An e-mail message sent to a company representative requesting comment was not immediately returned.

The EEOC alleges that by terminating him without exploring options for accommodation, American Apparel effectively denied the garment worker's request for reasonable accommodation and fired him due to his disability — a direct violation of the Americans With Disabilities Act.

The EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages on behalf of the garment worker, and injunctive relief to prevent future disability discrimination.

"Workers with disabilities cannot be cast off at the first sign of a disability-related issue," said Anna Y. Park, regional attorney for the EEOC's Los Angeles office.

"Employees have the right to seek and obtain a reasonable accommodation to modify their job, environment or schedule in order to continue working despite disability-related challenges," she said.

American Apparel, a clothing manufacturer, distributor and retailer, employs about 10,000 people globally — about 5,000 of which are in Los Angeles — and operates more than 285 retail stores in 20 countries, according to its website.

(©2010 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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