Georgia Employer to pay $1.5M to end Class Allegations Stemming from Disability Policies

November 21, 2016

A utility company in Georgia has agreed to pay $1,586,500 to settle a class disability discrimination lawsuit alleging that it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by refusing to hire applicants and firing employees based on their disabilities or perceived disabilities. According to the complaint filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), in some cases, the Employer even disregarded the opinions of treating physicians who supported the employees’ and applicants’ ability to work.

Rather than independently evaluating each employee or applicant, the Employer purportedly refused to hire disabled applicants or return employees to work following a medically related absence. In other cases, the Employer automatically disqualified employees and applicants under its seizure policy or its drug and alcohol policy, without individually assessing the employees’ or applicants’ ability to work. EEOC officials provided the following.

"An employer cannot refuse to hire or return an employee with a disability to work without doing an individualized assessment of that person and determining whether the employee or applicant can perform the job with or without a reasonable accommodation. These steps are the essence of the ADA. Under the ADA, when a qualified individual with a disability is ready and willing to work, employers have a legal duty to consider each individual’s ability to work on a case-by-case basis. Employers must be careful when relying on a blanket application of a company policy that disqualifies disabled employees as doing so could result in a violation of the ADA."