January 21, 2020
A Washington construction company agreed to pay $100,000 and furnish other relief to settle an age discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the EEOC announced on January 21, 2020. The EEOC alleged that the company terminated the employee’s employment after learning she had epilepsy, even though her condition was well controlled, she had requested no accommodation, and she had no medical restrictions. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
This case provides a good illustration of the difficulties for employers in handling disabilities and safety concerns in the workplace, but also of several pointers to avoid a similar situation. Employers should avoid making assumptions and relying on stereotypes about medical conditions and safety risks. An employee’s abilities should be assessed individually, based on medical data and information specific to the employee, and in collaboration with the employee. If the employee hasn’t requested an accommodation and their physician has indicated they have no medical restrictions, terminating the employee or otherwise subjecting them to an adverse action is likely to be viewed as straightforward discrimination prohibited by the Washington law Against Discrimination and Americans with Disabilities Act.
For more information, please see the EEOC’s press release at https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/newsroom/release/1-21-20a.cfm