The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE              CONTACT:   Adele Rapport
January 6, 1997                               Regional Attorney
                                              David A. Whitcomb
                                              Deborah Barno
                                              Trial Attorneys
                                              (313) 226-6701
                                              TDD:   (313) 226-7599

                                              Claire Gonzales
                                              Reginald Welch
                                              (202) 663-4900
                                              TDD:   (202) 663-4494



DETROIT -- A Detroit Federal Court Jury awarded an unprecedented $5.5 million in damages in an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) case brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)—the largest amount awarded to date in an ADA case. The lawsuit claimed that Complete Auto Transit discriminated against Thomas Lewis because of his disability (epilepsy).

EEOC filed suit after Mr. Lewis was unable to secure a yard work position with Complete Auto Transit after being barred from his original position due to U.S. Department of Transportation regulations. However, the jury recognized that Mr. Lewis could perform the essential functions of the position he was seeking without posing a safety threat. In fact, the company's own medical experts and Lewis' doctors testified to this effect. As a result, the jury found that Complete Auto Transit had violated the ADA and awarded $191,931 in back pay, $959,655 in compensatory damages, and $4,345,651 in punitive damages.

In commenting on this award, EEOC Chairman Gilbert F. Casellas stated, "This historic jury verdict demonstrates that workplace discrimination against people with disabilities is as offensive to the American public as any other form of job discrimination, and will not be tolerated. People should be judged by their abilities, not their disabilities."

Citing the historic significance of the verdict, EEOC's Detroit Regional Attorney Adele Rapport said, "This is the largest ADA verdict obtained by the Commission. In fact, I believe it is the largest verdict obtained by the Commission in any single plaintiff case anywhere in the country." Ms. Rapport also expressed her appreciation for the assistance of Teamsters Local #332. The teamsters provided invaluable support to both Mr. Lewis and the EEOC.

EEOC will ask the court to reinstate Mr. Lewis to a yard work position at Complete Auto Transit. The Commission is firm in its resolve that it will not negotiate on reinstatement in this or any other similar ADA case.

Along with enforcing Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which prohibits employment discrimination against people with disabilities in the private sector and state and local governments, EEOC also enforces Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin; the Age Discrimination in Employment Act; the Equal Pay Act; prohibitions against discrimination affecting individuals with disabilities in the federal government; and sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1991.

This page was last modified on January 15, 1997.

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