John Suayan, Galveston Bureau Nov. 30, 2012, 10:46am

GALVESTON - Alleging The American Bottling Co. and Dr. Pepper Snapple Group Inc. terminated him because he suffers from sleep apnea, Harris County resident Michael Sumpter pursues legal action.

A federal lawsuit filed Nov. 26 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas shows "rather than commending Mr. Sumpter's commitment to public safety and accommodating Mr. Sumpter's disability, the defendants terminated him."

Sumpter was a truck driver for the respondents for more than 25 years prior to his firing.

According to the suit, he worked 22 years straight without taking any sick leave and was never the subject of any disciplinary action, stating "he has been a model employee."

Sumpter claims the defendants dismissed him because of numerous tardies despite their willingness to accept workers being a little late "if it helped to ensure safety and effectuate compliance with Texas Department of Transportation regulations."

It further argues the complainant was rarely late to work until after he began to suffer from the condition in question that is the focus of the litigation.

Sumpter's diagnosis called for the use of a Continuos Positive Air Pressure (CPAP) machine, a mask system that delivers pressurized air to keep airways open during sleep.

However, the plaintiff had difficulty adjusting to sleeping while wearing the mask, and states that therefore he would have to sleep longer and be late about 15 minutes a few times a week, the original petition says.

Sumpter insists he would notify the defendants' receiving manager of his tardiness anytime he would be late and that his later arrivals "had no impact on his ability to do his job nor did it have any impact on customer service."

Among the drivers, he was the only one late because of a disability yet "notably none of the other drivers were terminated or even disciplined for being late," the suit says.

Efforts to put together a work schedule that was sensitive to the plaintiff's disability were unsuccessful as the company denied his request and fired him shortly afterwards, the suit claims.

Sumpter alleges "it was easier" for the defendants to let him go instead of accommodating his disability.

A jury trial is requested.

Sumpter is representing himself in the case.

Case No. 4:12-CV-3444

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