McCray was hired as a distribution specialist coordinator in 1994. He filed a lawsuit against his employer in 2021 stating that WestRock used a pretextual reason to terminate his employment and retaliate against him for making complaints about discrimination and for taking medical leave. McCray accused WestRock of:
- Failing to reasonably accommodate his disability,
- Failing to engage in the interactive process, and
- Failing to prevent disability discrimination.
Tad Collister, one of his bosses, barred McCray from using a men's restroom, took away his printing privileges and intentionally caused at least one of his shipments to go awry. In September 2020 McCray had been approved medical leave and planned to return for work in July 2021. However, one month before his scheduled return, a human resources representative informed McCray that he was being fired.
McCray’s attorney told Law360 that her client “was a devoted, exemplary 27-year employee who was illegally terminated by WestRock due to his disability and in retaliation for taking protected medical leave of absence and seeking to return to work with reasonable accommodation."
Of the $9.5 million in compensatory and punitive damages, the jury awarded McCray $1.5 million for future economic loss, $1.5 million for past noneconomic loss, $1 million for future noneconomic loss, and $10,000 for past economic loss in a compensatory-damages verdict. As well, the jury determined that WestRock's behavior amounted to malice, oppression or fraud and then awarded $5.451 million in punitive damages.
The case is McCray v. WestRock Services LLC, case number 2:21-c-09853, in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Two More WestRock Disability Discrimination Cases
McCray’s case isn’t the first time WestRock was hit with a disability discrimination complaint.
A former WestRock Services LLC machine operator claimed in 2020 that he was denied relief from the company’s Covid-19 masking policy as an accommodation for his medical conditions. Lun Mayes’ complaint alleges that he was approved for medical leave based on health issues that gave him trouble breathing, the US District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee said. Mayes’ conditions that caused him difficulty breathing and working, are both major life activities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, the court said. Mayes claimed he was denied training, a pay raise, promotional opportunities and subsequently terminated in retaliation for seeking accommodation for his disability.
READ MORE CALIFORNIA LABOR LAW LEGAL NEWS
WestRock’s Policy from Human Resources, dated April 2022 states that “This global policy reflects WestRock’s commitment to respect in our workplaces, including discrimination-free, harassment-free and bullying-free workplaces. This policy also reflects our commitment to accessibility and accommodations and provides information on responsibilities, reporting and investigation and discipline of misconduct under this policy.”