TDCJ fired correctional officer for requesting accommodations for disabilities, lawsuit says

By John Suayan | Jul 11, 2016

A South Carolina man alleges that he lost his job with the Texas Department of Criminal Justice because he had “heat-related disabilities” and has filed a wrongful termination lawsuit in Beaumont federal court.

According to his June 28 complaint, Charleston, S.C., resident Sam Hulon was “clearly qualified to work as a correctional officer in the TDCJ system” despite suffering from obesity, diabetes, hypertension, and depression. Hired in mid-2014 by the defendant, the suit states, Hulon worked at the Mark Stiles Unit in Beaumont where he “suffered four serious heat-related illnesses directly caused by working in the unsafe housing areas.”

A physician suggested the plaintiff remain on duty so as long as the latter had frequent rest breaks and access to his insulin. Hulon reportedly requested and was granted permission to work the night shift, however, was denied bringing his medication on grounds it required the use of a needle.

Per the suit, the plaintiff fell ill again within the first two hours of his new shift.

“His sergeant saw him dripping sweat down to his knees, and took him to the infirmary. The sergeant told Mr. Hulon that he ‘could not do this job’ and suggested he apply for disability benefits,” court documents say.

“Mr. Hulon was told by the personnel department to turn in his uniform. TDCJ failed to make any further good faith efforts, in consultation with Mr. Hulon, regarding workplace accommodations.”

The suit further asserts that the complainant made a request to work in a cooler portion of the prison only to be ignored and ultimately terminated, arguing that he “was qualified to perform the essential functions of his job had TDCJ given him reasonable accommodations.”

“Mr. Hulon was terminated solely because TDCJ refused to accommodate his disabilities,” the suit says.

“In the alternative, the refusal to accommodate his disabilities was a motivating factor in his termination.”

Consequently, Hulon seeks unspecified monetary damages.

He is represented by attorneys Jeff Edwards, Scott Medlock, and David James of The Edwards Law Firm in Austin.

Beaumont Division of the Eastern District of Texas Case No. 1:16-CV-00252-MAC

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