In Tennessee as well as across the United States it is against the law to discriminate against an employee or potential employee because of age, gender, sexual orientation, or disability. Unfortunately however, many companies and businesses find ways around these laws and discriminate against these employees anyway. According to a recent Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) employment law case, Windell Rutherford started work with the city in 1998 and was promoted to lead lineman in 2002. He became disabled after an on-the job injury in June 2006. In December of 2006, Rutherford was told to return to work, but the city refused to return him to his job as lead lineman when he asked for accommodations that would have allowed him to do the job.
Rutherford claims that the electrical superintendant stated twice that he didn’t want him in his department. Once, he said it was because of Rutherford’s injury and disability. A second time he said it was because “all linemen are white.” Rutherford is black.
At First Rutherford was placed in a light duty position in the Public Works Department without a pay cut. He claims that e Public Works director and city administrator tried to force him to sign a form in April 2010 saying he would accept a demotion to Public Works clerk and a pay cut of more than fifty percent. The city had allowed a white lineman to stay on the job with medical restrictions. Rutherford accepted the demotion in lieu of being fired. He applied for a transfer to an open lineman position later that year, but the job was given to two less qualified, non-disabled white men, Rutherford alleged.
In May 2012, raises were proposed for Rutherford and three other employees. His raise was not approved because he had filed a discrimination complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, according to the lawsuit. Rutherford sought to be reinstated to his lead lineman job and $22.50-per-hour salary or damages for future lost wages and benefits. He also sought other monetary damages.The city electrical department and Rutherford settled the case March 5, according to court records. Rutherford will be placed in an inventory clerk position. He will be reimbursed for his portion of mediation expenses, in addition to the $160,000.