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California food processor sued over disability allegations

A Central Valley food dehydrating company discriminated against employees taking leaves for surgery, cancer treatments and other ailments, according to federal employment officials.

The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed a class-action suit Monday in U.S. District Court in Sacramento, charging Sensient Natural Ingredients, a Livingston-based division of Sensient Technologies, with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The company’s predecessor, Sensient Dehydrated Flavors Co., denied employees’ requests for extended time off for medical treatment and denied their requests to return once physicians had cleared them to resume work, the suit alleges.

At the time, the company policy allowed seven months of leave, and terminated employees who exceeded that period, according to the suit.

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“We are seeing a rise in employers failing to accommodate individuals under the ADA,” said Anna Park, regional attorney for the agency in Los Angeles. “At a minimum, employers need to engage with workers to assess how to best accommodate their requests.”

The suit seeks back pay and other compensation and punitive damages, to be determined by the court. It also would require the company to revamp its leave policies.

The company dehydrates onions, garlic and other produce used as ingredients in processed foods.

A company spokesperson was not immediately available for comment.

Follow me on Twitter: @LATgeoffmohan


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