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Press Release 01-30-2020

BLI Northwest & Successor Harris Pacific Northwest to Pay $100,000 and Provide Other Relief to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Suit

 Certified Rigger Fired Due to Epilepsy, Federal Agency Charged

SEATTLE - Bellingham, Wash.-based BLI Northwest, Inc., formerly doing business as Diamond B Constructors, Inc. and its successor, Harris Pacific Northwest, LLC, will pay $100,000 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC's suit, Angela Watson was dispatched by her union to work on a project for Diamond B Constructors in Anacortes, Wash. Watson is a pipefitter by trade and holds an additional certifica­tion as a rigger. When Watson disclosed to her direct supervisor that she has epilepsy, he and other Dia­mond B supervisors unilaterally concluded that she could not safely work at heights and terminated her emp­loyment - even though Watson's epilepsy was well controlled by medication and that she had not requested any accommodation and had no medical restrictions.

Terminating an employee based on her disability violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The law also requires employers to make a case-by-case assessment of a worker's actual ability to perform the job functions when potential safety concerns are raised. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its voluntary conciliation process, the EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (EEOC v. BLI Northwest, Inc., f/k/a Diamond B Constructors, Inc. and Harris Pacific Northwest, LLC f/k/a Harris Acquisition IV, LLC, Case No. 2:18-CV-00926-RAJ).

The three-year consent decree settling the lawsuit provides $100,000 in compensatory damages to Watson. The decree also requires BLI Northwest and Harris Pacific Northwest, LLC to train their personnel on compliance with federal anti-discrimination laws, with an emphasis on the ADA. The companies will also implement and disseminate an ADA policy and post a notice describing obligations under the consent decree and employees' ADA rights.

"This employer concluded that Ms. Watson presented a significant safety risk without assessing the actual likelihood of her having a seizure," EEOC Senior Trial Attorney May Che said. "Depriving a person of employment opportunities because of assumptions about conditions such as epilepsy strikes at the heart of the ADA, and the EEOC will defend the rights of such persons in the workplace."

EEOC Seattle Field Director Nancy Sienko said, "Epilepsy reportedly affects 2.2 million Americans and affects each person differently. It is critical that employers not base job decisions on stereotypes, but instead carefully consider each individual's abilities."

Prior to its acquisition, Bellingham, Wash.-based Diamond B Constructors provided commercial and industrial construction services in Washington, Oregon, Montana, and California and employed about 250 people year-round. The company was acquired in January 2018 by Harris Pacific Northwest, LLC.

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.