SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A California civil rights agency has ordered a Wisconsin company to pay $846,000 for firing a sales manager who had to limit work travel as he was recovering from cancer surgery.
The Fair Employment and Housing Commission’s award in the case of Charles Wideman is the largest payment it has ever ordered in a discrimination case, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Wednesday.
Most of the money is compensation for Wideman’s losses. It also includes a $25,000 state fine.
Wideman was a Novato-based regional sales manager for Menomonee Falls-based Acme Electric until he was fired in March 2008 at age 59.
Acme Electric said Wideman wasn’t spending enough time traveling to meet customers during his recovery from cancer surgery in 2006 and 2007. The company argued that it had dismissed Wideman because of work deficiencies and the declining economy.
But the civil rights agency said the company’s reasons were baseless and ruled the firing was discrimination based on Wideman’s disability. It said the company had a duty to accommodate his requests for reduced travel during his recovery.
Wideman, who had headed Acme’s largest sales region from February 2004 to March 2008, said he had intended to work for the company until June 2015, when he turned 67.
The commission said Wideman was entitled to damages for lost pay during that period, based on his past compensation of about $106,000 a year in pay and benefits, since he couldn’t find a comparable job and was unlikely to do so in the future.
The company declined to comment on the commission’s ruling, said Karen Bauer, a spokeswoman for Acme’s parent company, Actuant Corp.