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Press Release 05-31-2017

UPCO Will Pay $106,000 For Disability Discrimination

Company's Improper Use of Pre-Employment Medical Exam Screened Out Qualified Employee, Federal Agency Charged

ST. LOUIS - A Claremore, Okla.-based manufacturer of sucker rods and accessories for the oil and gas industry will pay $106,000 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC's lawsuit, Lydia Summers began working as a temporary receptionist and assisting in the accounting department. After five months, UPCO made Summers a conditional offer of full-time, permanent employment, conditioned on Summers passing a pre-employment medical exam conducted by a third-party vendor. Following the exam, the vendor's physician, who never examined or questioned Summers, refused to approve her for employment with UPCO because of the supposed side effects of her prescription medications. Even after Summers provided UPCO with a letter from her personal physician stating that she was not impaired by her medications, UPCO rescinded its job offer, the EEOC alleged.

Discrimination against employees or job applicants based on unsubstantiated assumptions regarding medication side effects violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma (EEOC v. UPCO, Inc., Case No. 4:16-cv-00609-CVE-TLW) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to the monetary relief for Summers, the consent decree resolving the case requires UPCO to adopt policies that prohibit the unlawful use of employees' and applicants' medical information and to train its employees regarding the ADA. The decree also enjoins the company from engaging in this type of disability discrimination in the future.

"Workers should not fear losing their job - or being denied continued employment - because of an employer's assumptions or stereotypes regarding certain medications," said Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for the EEOC's St Louis District Office. "Federal law requires employers to conduct an individualized assessment of an applicant's present ability to perform a particular job before screening out the applicant based on stereotypes regarding medications."

James R. Neely, Jr., director of the EEOC's St. Louis District, said, "Employers cannot avoid liability for unlawful discrimination by contracting out their human resources or employee screening functions and must be diligent to comply with the ADA when they rely on third-party medical vendors."

Patrick Holman, a senior trial attorney in the EEOC's Oklahoma Area Office, added, "We appreciate UPCO's acknowledgement of the gravity of its conduct with regard to Ms. Summers and its determination to work with the EEOC to resolve the case in a timely manner by providing her reasonable compensation and undertaking measures to assure future compliance with the ADA."

Eliminating barriers to recruitment and hiring is one of EEOC's six Strategic Enforcement Plan priorities.

The EEOC's St. Louis District Office has jurisdiction over Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma and the southern part of Illinois.

The EEOC advances opportunity in the workplace by enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. More information is available at Stay connected with the latest EEOC news by subscribing to our email updates.