Qualified Material Handler Fired Because of His Obesity, Federal Agency Charged
HOUSTON -- BAE Systems Tactical Vehicle Systems, LP will pay $55,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today
According to the EEOC’s suit (Civil Action No.:11-cv-3497), BAE fired Ronald Kratz II because of his disability, morbid obesity, and because it regarded him as disabled. The agency said that at the time of his discharge, Kratz was qualified to perform the essential job functions of his material handler position. The EEOC also said the company did not engage in any discussion with him to determine whether reasonable accommodations were possible that would have allowed him to continue to perform his duties.
The ADA requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations that enable the employee to perform the essential functions of the position. The EEOC filed this suit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The consent decree settling the suit, signed by Judge Gray H. Miller, requires the company to pay $55,000 in monetary relief to Kratz and provide him with six months of outplacement services. Additionally, the decree requires training for the company’s managers and human resources professionals on equal employment opportunity compliance, disability discrimination law and responsibilities regarding reasonable accommodation to employees and applicants. The company must also post an anti-discrimination notice.
“The law protects morbidly obese employees and applicants from being subjected to discrimination because of their obesity,” said Kathy Boutchee, the EEOC’s senior trial attorney in Houston. “So long as an employee can perform the essential job duties of a position, with or without reasonable accommodation, the employee should be allowed to work on the same basis as any non-obese employee. Employers cannot fire disabled employees based on perceptions and prejudice. Mr. Kratz had a good performance rating and did not deserve to be fired.”
Jim Sacher, the EEOC’s regional attorney in Houston, said, “When the EEOC brings suit, it does so in the public interest. In this case, our goal is to enlighten both employers and employees of the ADA’s provisions. For that reason, the inclusion of the training and other injunctive relief is an equally important part of this settlement.”
BAE Systems Tactical Vehicle Systems, LP is a subsidiary of BAE Systems, Inc. According to the company website, www.baesystems.com, BAE Systems, Inc. is the U.S.-based segment of BAE Systems plc, with headquarters in Arlington, Va.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information is available on the EEOC's web site at www.eeoc.gov.