A Mayfield candle manufacturing company terminated a man recruited from Puerto Rico after realizing he was obese, according to a lawsuit filed in Graves Circuit Court last month.
The suit names Mayfield Consumer Products and its CFO, David Burch, as defendants in the suit brought by Armando Rivera Hernandez.
Hernandez, who lived in Humacao, Puerto Rico, claims he was recruited by the company in the summer of 2019 to relocate to Mayfield and work as a laborer in the candle factory.
The lawsuit claims that Hernandez "performed all of his job duties in a satisfactory manner," and that "many other Puerto Ricans" were also recruited around the same time.
But when Hernandez and other workers arrived in Mayfield, according to the filing, "the Defendants observed that some of the workers … had various physical limitations, medical conditions and/or disabilities," including Hernandez's obesity.
The suit claims that when the company discovered some of the workers' physical limitations or disabilities, they wrongfully terminated them, including Hernandez.
In support of that claim, the lawsuit includes a screenshot of a text message, purportedly from Burch, that states "We are working diligently to clean up the epileptic, obese, pregnant, and special needs issues."
Reached by phone Tuesday, Owensboro attorney John Caudill, who filed the lawsuit, said he could not disclose the alleged recipient of the text message but classified it as "an internal document."
Caudill said the scope of the alleged conduct has yet to be known, but he believes it incorporates more victims of discrimination than Hernandez.
"The thought that an employer would take such a position against people that are already having a difficult time obtaining jobs in the workforce, keeping jobs in the workforce, that's why we have laws to protect individuals like this," Caudill said.
Mayfield Consumer Products Human Resources Manager Bob McNutt said Tuesday that he had not been made aware of the lawsuit, and as such, could not offer a comment on the allegations.
Officials with the Graves County Circuit Clerk's Office said as of late afternoon Tuesday, no response had been filed.
Kentucky law prohibits employers from firing or refusing to hire someone due to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age of 40 or over, disability despite being qualified for the job, or status as a smoker or nonsmoker.
It also bars employers from failing to reasonably accommodate employees related to pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions when the employee requests an accommodation.
Caudill said the suit hinges on "reasonable accommodation" and the rights of people who may have disabilities that don't hinder their job performance.
"Do we live in a country of laws, or do we live in a country of corporations who get to chose which laws they want to follow?" he asked.
The lawsuit asks for punitive and compensatory damages, and requests a jury trial.