Construction Company Wrongfully Terminated Employees Based on Their Medical History Despite Their Fitness for Duty, Federal Agency Charged
Birmingham, Ala. - Zachry Industrial, Inc., formerly known as Zachry Construction Corporation, which staffs the Chevron Refinery in Pascagoula, Miss., has agreed to pay $135,000 and provide other relief to settle a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
According to the EEOC's suit, Zachry violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it terminated at least four employees based on their medical history following an occupational health examination, despite the employees having adequately performed their jobs. The EEOC further alleged that Zachry violated the ADA by failing to engage in an interactive dialogue with the employees prior to termination to assess whether they could perform the essential functions of their job with or without a reasonable accommodation.
The ADA protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities or perceived disabilities when the employees can perform the essential functions of their job with or without a reasonable accommodation. The EEOC filed suit in the Southern District of Mississippi (EEOC v. Zachry Industrial, Inc., 1:18-cv-58-HSO-JCG) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
In addition to providing monetary relief, the three-year consent decree requires the company to implement an anti-discrimination policy that prohibits disability-based discrimination. The decree further requires the company to conduct annual training on the ADA. Zachry must also post an employee notice about the lawsuit and employee rights under federal anti-discrimination laws, and must provide periodic reports to the EEOC.
"The ADA prohibits employers from terminating employees who are performing their jobs based on their medical history,"said EEOC Birmingham District Director Bradley Anderson. "Once on notice of a disability, an employer must perform an individualized inquiry to determine whether a reasonable accommodation will help the employee to work."
Marsha Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham District, said, "The ADA is clear-, employers cannot blindly defer to a company physician's opinion without first pausing to assess the objective reasonableness of the physician's conclusions. When this happens, as in this instance, the EEOC will intercede to protect the rights of employees to work without threat of termination when they are performing their jobs.
The EEOC's Birmingham District Office has jurisdiction over Alabama, Mississippi (all but 17 counties in the northern part of Mississippi), and the Florida Panhandle.
The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at www.eeoc.gov. The Birmingham District consists of Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties) and the Florida Panhandle. Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.