Human Resources News & Insights

Discriminating against disabled workers, applicants costs utility $1.6 million

Employers feared that disability discrimination cases would skyrocket after Congress passed the ADA Amendments Act a few years ago. Those fears are being realized. And the cost of the latest disability discrimination settlement: almost $1.6 million.  

Georgia Power Company, an electric utility company headquartered in Atlanta, will pay $1,586,500 to settle a class disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the EEOC, the agency announced.

EEOC filed suit in 2013, charging that Georgia Power violated federal law by refusing to hire applicants and firing employees based on their disabilities or perceived disabilities.

Ignored doctor’s reports

According to EEOC’s complaint, in some cases, Georgia Power disregarded the opinions of treating physicians who supported the employees’ and applicants’ ability to work. Rather than independently evaluating each employee or applicant, Georgia Power simply refused to hire disabled applicants or return employees to work following a medically related absence, the agency alleged.

EEOC said that in other cases, Georgia Power automatically disqualified employees and applicants under its seizure policy or its drug and alcohol policy, without individually assessing the employees’ or applicants’ abilities to work. The company’s discriminatory policies and practices affected 24 individuals, EEOC said.

EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement.

The consent decree settling the suit was filed with the court on Nov. 15, 2016. In addition to monetary relief totaling $1,586,500, Georgia Power also agreed to:

  • change both its seizure policy and its drug and alcohol policy to ensure compliance with the ADA
  • provide equal employment opportunity training to its employees and to post anti-discrimination notices at its facilities, and
  • follow reporting and monitoring requirements for a period of three years, including reporting to EEOC each time that Georgia Power does not hire an applicant because of a disability or does not allow an employee to return to work because of a disability.
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