Machinist claims exposure to coolant caused rare skin condition

Michelle Keahey, East Texas Bureau Feb. 13, 2012, 9:37am

SHERMAN - A machinist has filed a lawsuit against his employer which argues the company failed to accommodate his rare skin condition.

Claiming violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Robert Bowen filed suit against Flowserve Corp. on Feb. 8 in the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division.

Bowen was employed by the defendant as a CAM Machinist from July 2002 until Oct. 2011 at its Flowserve Sulphur Springs Operations facility.

Bowen was assigned to operate a machine on the shop floor which used a particular brand of blue coolant. Bowen claims that after he was exposed to the blue coolant, he was unable to go outside without developing a red rash. The suit states Bowen was diagnosed with a skin condition called solar uticaria, which made him allergic to ultraviolet rays from the sun.

In an effort to get away from the blue coolant, Bowen bid on a job in plastics and bid on a job in heat treatment, but claims his bids were unsuccessful.

In April 2010, Bowen's doctor linked his skin condition with exposure to the blue coolant and was ordered to take time off from work. In June, Bowen returned to work in the Quality Assurance Department.

A few months later, a meeting was held in which the plant manager allegedly told Bowen, "it may be time for you to find another career."

Bowen's reassignment to the Quality Assurance Department ended in August and he went on leave. Bowen returned to work in January 2011 to the shop floor, and states that again he started to experience symptoms of solar uticaria.

According to the lawsuit, Bowen's doctor sent his employer a letter stating Bowen was disabled as a result of being exposed to the blue coolant at the plant. His doctor told Bowen that he would not get better unless he left Flowserve. Bowen resigned in October 2011.

The defendant is accused of failure to accommodate Bowen's disability.

The plaintiff is asking for an award of damages for back pay, front pay, emotional pain and suffering, inconvenience, mental anguish, loss of enjoyment of life, and attorney's fees.

Bowen is represented by Sulphur Springs attorney Wade A. Forsman.

A jury trial is requested.

U.S. District Judge Michael H. Schneider is assigned to the case.

Case No. 4:12-cv-00064

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