Human Resources News & Insights

EEOC gets punched in the nose on 2 ADA lawsuits

By now, it’s apparent the EEOC’s taking an ultra-aggressive approach to enforcing the newly expanded Americans with Disabilities Act. The good news: Some recent court rulings might rein those efforts in a bit.

Two recent cases illustrate the point.

The first involved two individuals who alleged discrimination based on a perceived disability after not being hired by a railroad in Colorado.

But that wasn’t the key to the case. That arose when the agency asked for “any
computerized or machine-readable files . . . created or maintained by you . . .
during the period December 1, 2006 through the present that contain electronic
data about or effecting [sic] current and/or former employees . . . throughout the
United States.”

The company objected to the broad scope of the request. The EEOC responded by saying that it had widened its investigation to “pattern and practice discrimination” — the agency claimed it had four other similar bias charges from four other states. That justified the nationwide information request.

The court wasn’t buying it. The case brought by the EEOC involved two individuals, and the agency was entitled “only to evidence that is ‘relevant to the charge(s) under investigation,'” the appeals court ruled.

“Nothing prevents the EEOC from investigating the charges filed by (the original two complainants), and then — if it ascertains some violation warranting a
broader investigation — expanding its search,” the court said. “But nationwide recordkeeping data is not relevant to charges of individual disability discrimination.”

The case is EEOC v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe R.R. Co. To read the full decision, go here.

Must displaced workers be transferred?

The second case centered on the EEOC’s claim that, under the ADA, employees who lose their jobs due to a disability must be reassigned to a vacant position for which they are qualified.

At issue was a United Airlines written accommodation policy that addressed the issue of disabled employees who couldn’t perform the “essential functions” of their job, even with reasonable accommodation.

The company guidelines say that while reassigning the disabled worker to a different job is certainly an option, “the transfer process is competitive.

“Accordingly, an employee will not be automatically placed into a vacant position. Instead, employees needing accommodation will be given preference,
meaning they can submit an unlimited number of transfer applications, they are guaranteed an interview and they will receive priority consideration over a
similarly qualified applicant.”

Not good enough, argued the EEOC — the transfer of the disabled employee must be guaranteed.

The judge turned thumbs-down on the EEOC stance. If better qualified applicants are available, they may be hired in place of the disabled employees, if the employer has a “consistent and honest” policy of only hiring candidates deemed  best-qualified.

The case is To read the full decision, go here.

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  • Lori

    Really? “Punched in the nose?” I am really getting tired of this right-wing nonsense that everything must have a violent slant. The EEOC perhaps over-reached in the cases sited and the court probably did right in their rulings but “punched in the nose?” You really think that is an appropriate head-line?

  • H2r

    Lori – I agree! Exactly!

  • KR

    I love how the EEOC should be cut “slack” for thier over-reaching…yet, when employers make a mistake the EEOC needs to slam them.

    Good balance, right!

  • Sue

    Why do you characterize the headline as “right-wing?” Careful – your politics are showing.

  • Lori

    Because it is typically the right-wing that uses violent imagery and language. Careful – your naivete is showing.

  • Bob

    I am concerned about the tone of this conversation. Can’t someone have his or her say, in an open forum, without having the last disrespectful “gotcha” word?

  • Common Sense

    Putting aside whether or not the article slants “left” or “right”, I am just glad that we can all seemingly agree that the EEOC has once again over-reached it’s authority. Let’s hope the next administration will be able to fill the the EEOC leadership with competent non-agenda driven professionals to replace the current batch of idealogues.

    P.S. @ Lori. I don’t think one can ascertain that another is naive simply because they were able to guess at your political stance. I would bet dollars to dougnuts that she is correct. Let’s face it. The right and left both use plenty of violent imagery and language. (It’s human nature) I can list countless examples if you doubt what I say. All you need to do is ask.

  • Rick S

    The right-wing is violent? After 30 yrs in law enforcement, I would say it is the liberal wing that fills most jail cells for violent crimes. Naivete my rear!


    “Violent imagery and language is typically used by the right-wing”….is that your opinion or can you provide the facts to back it up?

  • MMAN

    Geesh, the title is only using a figure of speech such as “a slap in the face” or “had their arm twisted”, why do politics even have to get brought up in this. I could be wrong on this one, but I very seriously doubt that the author had any intentions of the title being taken as “violent.”

  • H2r

    This is an advertising driven website. They will headline anything to get readership and especially if it stirs a controversy and more posts. If a post appears liberal it draws more posts from the right to shout it down. On the other hand, if only the right wingers post – to slap each other on the back, the article dies a slow death. I find it more entertaining, and that’s ALL it is really, when there is some controversy. So occasionally I like to poke the conservatives in the arm. You are welcome HRMORNING.

  • MMAN

    @Common Sense. If you had any, you would realize that any administration, whether blood red, or true blue will fill these agencies with those who would push their agendas whether it’s pro-business or pro-labor liberal or whatever you want to call it. This is in responsed to where you said “Let’s hope the next administration will be able to fill the the EEOC leadership with competent non-agenda driven professionals to replace the current batch of idealogues.” To think otherwise is ridiculous.

  • Ray Patnaude Jr.

    I think the phrase “punched in the nose” concisely conveys the content and meaning of the article. I think it also vents some the frustration some may have and references a feeling of being “beaten-up” by some, not all, overly aggressive or even hostile regulatory agents working for the myriad of agencies we are mandated to deal with, and the seemingly insurmountable number of laws and regulations we are required to comply with. Even Congress doesn’t read some of these before voting on them.

    These days almost any thing someone says is open to criticism and opinion that amounts to an attempt to impose some politically correct censorship. However, as long as we can have public discourse and free speach, the editor can say what the editor thinks and Lori can say what she thinks, so far.

  • Common Sense

    @ MMAN I hardly think it is appropriate to imply I am devoid of “common sense” simply because I hope the next administration will appoint competent non-agenda drive professionals. I more than fully realize that presidents will appoint people who are friendly to his/her philosophy, but they need not be highly controversial recess appointees like the former SEIU labor union lawyer who seems determined to attack businesses beyond the original intent of the law.
    That is all I was trying to say. If that makes me lacking in “common sense” in your mind, so be it.

  • Common Sense

    @H2r. It has been clear to me for quite some time that you are indeed posting comments on this sight to “poke” others in the arm (violent imagery? Do we need the p.c. police) at the expense of intelligent dialogue. I just hope in the future you will be better able to mix-up your all to frequent arm-poking with some accurate facts and insightful relevant opinion, free of epithets and Tea Party Paranoia. It would be a refreshing change.

  • MMAN

    @Common Sense. You said and I quote, “replace the current batch of idealogues”. Now I’m not gonna argue with you whether or not this is the case at all, but I will say that be it republicans in office or be it democrats, they will all push their ideologies through the courses of action they take. On one hand, some may feel that the EEOC is not doing enough to protect people from discrimination while on the other hand, some may feel that they are “over stepping their bounds” as this article explains. All I’m saying is that all it comes down to is push and shove. In the last administration, I’m sure there were those on the opposite side of the fence hoping that agencies such as these would do more to make sure employers were doing their job and behaving ethically and were hoping that “the next administration will be able to fill the the EEOC leadership with competent non-agenda driven professionals…”

  • Common Sense

    @MMAN There is absolutely no need to parse every word people write. I have already acknowledged that presidents will appoint people who are friendly to his/her philosophy. I am certain most readers of this website already realize this. I was simply trying to keep my original comments brief and thought it could go without saying, but you forced my hand. Maybe when I said “replace the current batch of idealogues”, I should have said “replace the current batch of extreme idealogues” to make it more clear to you.
    Yes, I believe there can be level-headed appointees who are friendly to a philosophy, without being extreme agenda-driven lightning rod partisans. To imply that I thought “otherwise is ridiculous”
    In the end, I do think we essentially agree on this issue, but you inexplicably feel the need to belabor the semantics of what I said in sort gotcha game and I then feel forced to clarify remarks I thought were obvious. If they weren’t the first time, surely they should have been the second time. I hope it is obvious now. Please let it rest.

  • MMAN

    Will do Common Sense. When I read you post though I was like, easy tiger.