Michael Trimble’s disability is evident and well-established, but it seemingly had no connection with his ability to competently — even admirably — carry out his work-related duties at the Kroger supermarket chain’s corporate offices in Portland, Oregon.
That lack of any apparent connection, coupled with what his legal team says is scant evidence that Kroger worked with him in any reasonable way to accommodate his disability, has led to the company’s being named as a defendant in a federal discrimination lawsuit. Kroger is joined in that capacity by the temp agency that placed Trimble.
Trimble was born three decades ago near the site of the infamous Chernobyl nuclear plant disaster in the Ukraine. A severe birth defect left him with deformed arms that had to be amputated.
Yet Trimble is enterprising. His job at Kroger involved customer communications, and he rode a modified bicycle from home to work and back.
It was the bike that caused the conflict. Trimble’s complaint alleging discrimination, retaliation and wrongful termination is grounded in the Americans With Disabilities Act mandate placed upon employers to reasonably accommodate disabled workers. His lawsuit alleges that Kroger officials summarily asked him to alter his customary riding-in habits and, instead, carry his bike up stairs, which was reportedly “a herculean” task he could not accomplish. Nor could he walk the bike into the building.
For his failure to comply, Trimble was fired, an action his attorney says simply “doesn’t make sense,” given Trimble’s positive work record, proven ability to do the job he was tasked to do, and the fact that the bike matter was a minor side issue unrelated to performance.
The ADA-grounded lawsuit was filed earlier this month.