Disabled man hired by Verizon says company fired him years later - for having disability

He worked in customer service and sales for a limousine company for 15 years before landing a position with Verizon Communications in 1999.

Thomas McDonald displays some of the awards he received during his time working for Verizon. (Submitted photo)
Working as a consultant in the sales and retention department in Madison, he excelled with the company, earning accolades from his superiors and even got his name on a Wheaties box for his outstanding sales, customer service and attendance records.

After a 14-year career there, Verizon fired him because of his disability, McDonald said, and how he's suing the company in federal court.

"When they hired me, they were hiring a person with a disability," he said this week. "Through the years working with Verizon, I won many awards for my sales ability, my customer service ability and my attendance. I was good at what I did."

McDonald says this treatment violated the terms of a settlement the company reached a few years earlier regarding its treatment of employees with disabilities.

In 2011, Verizon agreed to pay $20 million to settle a class-action lawsuit by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission alleging that the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act by denying reasonable accommodations for hundreds of employees with disabilities.

The case centered around Verizon's "no fault" attendance plans, under which employees would face discipline and possible termination if they accumulated a certain number of "chargeable absences."

The EEOC argued that Verizon failed to make accommodations for employees with disabilities whose absences were the result of those disabilities. Those accommodations can include paid or unpaid leave.

Under the settlement, Verizon vowed to adhere to ADA standards, to train its staff and to monitor compliance.

While he wasn't involved in that case, McDonald said the company didn't keep its word when it came to how he was treated.

In his suit, he claims Verizon violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and New Jersey's Law Against Discrimination.

In response to questions about McDonald's lawsuit, a Verizon spokesman provided a statement from the company.

"Verizon doesn't provide comment on any individual employee matters. Verizon has a zero tolerance policy against discrimination of any kind," it said.

McDonald dealt with several health issues related to his disability during his time with Verizon, he said.

He needed surgery for a degenerative skin condition, underwent emergency quadruple heart bypass surgery, had another surgery to install a pacemaker and defibrillator and was hospitalized for sepsis.

He needed time off from work as these issues arose and had to alter his work hours under direction from his doctor.

His work record remained stellar, McDonald said, as he racked up trophies and more honors for his outstanding efforts in retaining customers.

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