Aluminum Giant Refuses to Hire Qualified Worker Due to Medical History, Federal Agency Charges
SPOKANE, Wash. - Major manufacturer Kaiser Aluminum Corporation violated federal law when it rejected an experienced construction worker due to his medical history instead of evaluating his current abilities, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to EEOC, Kaiser told Donald McMurray he was overqualified when it offered him a production worker job at its Trentwood mill in Spokane. However, when McMurray's medical records showed a workplace injury from over ten years ago, EEOC charges that Kaiser did nothing to assess his current ability to do the job and simply withdrew his job offer. The company refused to let him complete the standard pre-employment physical and ignored McMurray's requests to prove that he was capable of meeting the job's physical demands, despite the fact that he was already working in construction without any accommodation.
"When I applied for that job, I was fully recovered from my decade-old injury and I had no restrictions and was working hard," said McMurray. "On the day Kaiser told me that I could not work there because of my supposed inability to walk on uneven surfaces or climb ladders at Kaiser, I was driving a 966 CAT loader that I had been climbing in and out of all day on a construction site."
Failing to hire a person based on a record of a prior disability or a perceived disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the District of Eastern District of Washington (Case No. 2:16-CV-00343)after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC seeks monetary damages for McMurray, and injunctive relief such as training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the worksite, and compliance reporting.
"The purpose of the ADA is to ensure a level playing field where hiring decisions are based on the applicant's actual abilities, not on myths, fears, and stereotypes about an individual's medical history," said Teri Healy, EEOC senior trial attorney. "Earlier this year, in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, EEOC won a significant ADA liability judgment against BNSF Railway when that employer also stopped the hiring process and failed to recognize an individual's current capabilities."
Nancy Sienko, field office director of EEOC's Seattle Field Office, added, "Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring and enforcing the ADA are high priorities for EEOC. Employers should invest in proper training and better communication to make sure disability discrimination does not bar well-qualified candidates from the workforce."
With headquarters in Foothill Ranch, California, Kaiser employs more than 2,000 people at its 12 facilities in North America, and, according to www.kaiseraluminum.org, is a leading producer of fabricated aluminum products, with reported net sales of $1.4 billion and value-added revenue of $790 million in 2015.
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.