Employee Forced to Wear Mask at Work or Face Termination Sues Ex-Employer

The country’s largest propane marketer, Amerigas, is being sued by an ex-employee who was forced to wear a mask at work, purportedly to treat sleep apnea, for wrongful termination and failure to accommodate his perceived disability.

Yuseff Williams was hired by Amerigas in July 2015 as a service technician, responsible for making propane tank deliveries to customers, according to the complaint. 

In December 2015 Amerigas initiated a pilot study in which it began screening all new applicants, seasonal hires and flex employees for obstructive sleep apnea. Williams and two other employees were subjected to the testing, following which he was required to conduct a home sleep study test.

Williams completed the home test in April 2016 and was purportedly diagnosed by Amerigas as having sleep apnea and it prescribed him a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine. Williams claims this was the first time he had been diagnosed with the condition and that he had never been accused of falling asleep at work or that sleeping issues affected his employment. Williams claims he received positive reviews at work.

Amerigas, however, required Williams to wear the CPAP mask for four hours during the work day. Williams claims he was embarrassed and uncomfortable wearing the mask in front of supervisors, coworkers and customers. He claims he was the only experienced employee required to wear the mask.

Williams began to experience breathing difficulty while wearing the mask shortly after being required to do so, according to the complaint. Several times he expressed concern to Amerigas about his inability to breathe properly while wearing the mask. 

After discussing these difficulties with Amerigas’ nurse, he was told that he needed to keep wearing the mask or his employment would be terminated. 

Williams sought diagnosis and treatment from his personal primary care doctor in January 2016, but was unable to obtain an appointment until April. In March 2016 Amerigas terminated Williams’s “employment on the grounds that he failed to fulfill material condition of his employment which was the required use of the CPAP machine.”

Williams argues that Amerigas’ “conduct in terminating [him] is an adverse action . . . taken as a result of his perceived disability and constitutes a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act . . . .”

The case was brought in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania by Graham Baird of Philadelphia.

Image Source: Rachel Tayse (Flickr)