Grisham Farm's Mandatory Health History Form Violated Federal Laws, Court Rules
ST. LOUIS -- A federal judge ruled in favor of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on June 8, 2016 that a Mountain Grove, Mo., farm violated two federal laws by requiring all job applicants to fill out a health history before they would be considered for a job, the federal agency announced today.
According to EEOC's lawsuit, Phillip Sullivan, a retired law enforcement officer who sought employment with Grisham Farm Products, Inc., was told by the company that if he did not fully complete and submit a three-page health history form with his application, he would not be considered for any job.
Such alleged conduct violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) because it requested information that could cause an applicant to identify himself or herself as a person with a disability. It also violated the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA), which prohibits employers from requesting or requiring genetic information, including medical histories from applicants, except in limited circumstances. Finally, EEOC alleged, Grisham Farm failed to maintain or retain employment records and applications for employment, as required by law.
EEOC filed its lawsuit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Grisham Farm Products, Inc., Civil Action No. 6:16-CV-3105 MDH) in March in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Missouri, Southern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
Judge H. Douglas Harpool agreed with EEOC on all its allegations.
In addition to declaring that Grisham Farm violated the law and ordering it to implement policies and practices to prevent discrimination, Judge Harpool ordered the farm to pay Sullivan $10,000 in damages. Finally, Judge Harpool held that EEOC has the authority to enforce the court's judgment for five years.
"The quick judgment in this matter affirms that Americans with Disabilities Act and Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act are important and powerful tools to protect both employees and job applicants from unlawful discrimination," said James R. Neely, Jr., director of EEOC's St. Louis District Office.
Andrea G. Baran, EEOC's regional attorney in St. Louis, said, "We are extremely pleased this lawsuit was resolved in three short months, with the court holding that companies cannot require applicants to reveal their health history prior to receiving a job offer. Employers need to realize EEOC will vigorously challenge this discriminatory practice which both discourages some individuals, like Mr. Sullivan, from applying, and allows employers to consider illegal factors in their employment decisions."
Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring is one of six national priorities identified by EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan.
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The agency's St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and a portion of southern Illinois. Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.