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July 18, 2013

Man sues MeadWestvaco over firing

An Oneonta man suing the MeadWestvaco Corporation under the Americans with Disabilities Act is preparing to add wrongful termination to his complaint.

Robert M. Vance and his attorney, Peter M. Hartnett, held a news conference at Vance's house Wednesday, detailing the substance of his complaint.

Vance was born with a high degree of neural hearing loss. This has caused him to be hearing impaired, and he has a corresponding speech impediment.

Vance was hired by MeadWestvaco to work in their Sidney plant in 2004. According to the complaint, the company was aware of Vance's disability at the time they hired him.

“There's never been an issue with his job performance,” Hartnett said.

The genesis of Vance's suit occurred from 2004-2007. Vance claims that he noticed that he wasn't being rotated to different job areas like his co-workers were, and that his efforts to rectify this situation were stymied.

He also says that he was subject to a hostile work environment because of his disability.

“I was called a safety issue by the employees in my department,” said Vance.

Because of this, Vance filed a charge with the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, EEOC. This resulted in a mediation agreement which specified, among other things, that Vance be trained in all areas of his department.

Vance contends that this agreement was not followed, and that he has been subjected to harassment and retaliation by the company. He filed a second EEOC charge on or about Feb. 13, 2009, and an amended charge March 18, 2010.

The EEOC issued its dismissal of this second case Sept. 13, 2011, not taking a position either way on the claim, and informing Vance that he now had the right to sue.

On Feb. 16, 2012, Vance filed suit in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of New York. While his suit was ongoing, Vance continued to work at MeadWestvaco.

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