July 22, 2020

When Perception Becomes Reality

On July 22nd, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania filed a consent decree resolving a lawsuit alleging discrimination in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).  The matter was resolved for $2.5 Million.  This comes on the heels of an announcement earlier this year that the same company settled an age discrimination lawsuit for $350,000.

What happened? The U.S. EEOC reports the employer was “medically disqualifying workers without proper consideration of whether, or to what extent, their conditions might affect their ability to perform the jobs safely.” This included applicants as well as current employees.

What Else? This settlement involved a LOT more than just money (as if $2.5M wasn’t enough). In addition, the employer had to:

  • establish ADA-specific policy and procedures;
  • engage a 3rd party occupational medicine expert review the company’s medical guidelines concerning medical disqualification;
  • take at least five (5) steps to engage in internal compliance auditing;
  • conduct (very) specific ADA training;
  • submit detailed reports to the EEOC;
  • …and more.


Tip. The EEOC reminds us, “An employer who claims safety concerns justify its exclusion of a worker with a disability must demonstrate the worker’s disability poses a significant risk of substantial harm and that such risk cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level through reasonable accommodation.”

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