EEOC Settles ADA Suit for Fired Maintenance Worker
BALTIMORE -- A Gaithersburg, Md.-based storage facility will pay $95,000 and furnish other substantial relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
In its suit (Civil Action No. 8:08-cv-02498-PJM), filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Southern Division, the EEOC said that Extra Space Management, Inc. unlawfully fired James L. Hill II, a maintenance worker, because of a disability. Hill, who has a visible disfigurement as a result of sustaining severe burns to his body in a house fire, began working for the company in June 2006. Although he was physically capable and willing to perform all his job duties, Hill was fired after meeting the acting district manager, who said that he “noticed he was handicapped, deformed or something,” and “it’s clear he can’t get the job done.”
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it unlawful to discriminate in employment against a qualified individual with a disability. The EEOC filed suit after first attempting to reach a settlement out of court. Extra Space Management did not admit liability in the consent decree resolving the case, which is pending judicial approval.
In addition to the monetary relief to Hill, the consent decree provides that all employees and management staff at the Gaithersburg facility as well as 14 additional locations in Maryland and northern Virginia will have at least two hours of training on the require¬ments and prohibitions of the ADA. Additionally, all newly hired managers and supervisory personnel will receive ADA training within 30 days after their employment commences. The EEOC will closely monitor the quality and content of all training and will require the employer to post a notice affirming its commitment to complying with the ADA. The company agreed to submit to further monitoring of their premises and records and the EEOC may interview employees concerning compliance for the decree’s two-year duration.
“Employers must make employment decisions based on the employee’s ability to perform the duties of the job, not because of the prejudices of others,” said Debra M. Lawrence, acting regional attorney of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District, whose jurisdiction includes Maryland.
EEOC Senior Trial Attorney Maria Salacuse added, “Mr. Hill had been successfully performing his duties. Society’s myths and fears about a perceived disability are often more handicapping than any physical limitations that may flow from a physical impairment.”
Disability discrimination charge filings with the EEOC nationwide totaled 19,453 in Fiscal Year 2008, up 9 percent from the prior year and the highest level in a decade.
Extra Space Management is a subsidiary of Extra Space Storage, Inc. According to its web site, Extra Space Storage is the second largest operator of self-storage in the U.S., and is a national owner, developer, acquirer and operator of professionally managed self-storage properties.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.