Paper Manufacturer Screened Out Individuals With Disabilities Based on Unlawful Qualification Standard, Federal Agency Said
PHILADELPHIA - P.H. Glatfelter Company, a global paper manufacturer headquartered in York, Pa., will pay $180,000 and provide significant equitable relief to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today.
EEOC charged that Glatfelter required all individuals who applied for or worked in positions involving operation of forklifts or similar motorized industrial equipment to undergo a medical examination and pass a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) physical qualification standard for the operation of commercial motor vehicles. Federal law does not require drivers of forklifts or similar equipment to pass the DOT standards for commercial motor vehicles. According to the suit, Glatfelter nonetheless applied the DOT standards in a manner that screened out qualified individuals with disabilities.
EEOC further maintained that Glatfelter failed to conduct individualized assessments of applicants' and employees' ability to operate the equipment at issue or to determine whether a reasonable accommodation would enable them to do so. EEOC said that Glatfelter rescinded job offers to two qualified applicants with disabilities, Charles Stevens and Sarah Stine, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. P.H. Glatfelter, Civil Action No. 15-cv-01881) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
"Employers may choose to adopt qualification standards, but they must be consistent with the purpose and intent of applicable federal law," said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. "And those standards must accurately measure the individual's ability to perform the essential functions of the actual job at issue."
In addition to the $180,000 in monetary relief to Stevens and Stine, the three-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins Glatfelter from violating the ADA in the future. Pursuant to the decree's requirements, Glatfelter must revise its qualification standard to ensure that it is job-related and consistent with business necessity and includes an individualized assessment of a candidate's ability to do the job, with or without reasonable accommodation. Glatfelter will also post a notice about the settlement at all of its production facilities.
EEOC Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "We are pleased that Glatfelter worked with us to resolve this matter quickly. In addition to the monetary relief, the settlement provides for ADA-compliant qualification standards and otherwise ensures that applicants and employees will not be discriminated against based on disability."
One of the six national priorities identified by EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan is for the agency to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment law, including certain ADA issues such as qualification standards.
EEOC's Philadelphia District Office has jurisdiction over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. Legal staff of the EEOC Philadelphia District Office also prosecutes discrimination cases arising from Washington, D.C. and parts of Virginia.
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the agency is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.