A piece of advice from the ADA: Don’t make employment decisions based on supervisor’s assumptions about employees’ physical capabilities.
Two recent cases make it clear that those types of assumptions can turn out to be very expensive for employers.
In the first, Illinois staffing provider JES Personnel Consultants agreed to pay $80,000 to a man it had placed with a technology firm.
The man reported for worked at Clover Technologies Group, where he unpacked and sorted ink cartridges. He suffered a brief epileptic seizure on his first day; Clover officials allowed him to work for the rest of the day, but asked him to submit a doctor’s note certifying he’d be able to fulfill the job requirements.
The EEOC said that the employee provided the note to the staffing company the next day. It’s not clear whether JES advised him that the note was inadequate or simply failed to forward the note to Clover, but the employee was not permitted to return to the job.
He filed a disability discrimination complaint with the EEOC, which negotiated a settlement with the staffing provider.
Final bill: $80,000.
Passed over because of earlier stroke
The second case concerned a woman who worked for Maximus, Inc., a Virginia-based consulting firm.
Thelma Austin said she’s been passed over for promotion because company officials were concerned about the residual effects of a stroke she’d suffered some months before.
She, too, took her to the EEOC. The investigation ended with Maximus agreeing to award Austin $50,000.
In addition, the company agreed to distribute its anti-discrimination policy to all employees, post its anti-discrimination policy in its McLean facility, provide annual ADA-specific training to its managers, supervisors and employees in its McLean facility, and post a notice about the settlement.
An EEOC regional attorney’s remark in a press release pretty well sums up the lessons in both of these cases:
“Employers must remember that they cannot deny work opportunities to people who are ready and able simply because of inaccurate perceptions about medical impairments and disabilities.”