Press Release 04-29-2020

Horizontal Well Drillers to Pay $650,000 to Settle EEOC Age And Disability Discrimination Suit

Oklahoma Drilling Contractor Refused to Hire Older Rig Hands and Fired Employee Because of Disability After Conducting an Unlawful Medical Exam, Federal Agency Charged

ST. LOUIS – Horizontal Well Drillers LLC (HWD), a Purcell, Okla.-based oil and gas drilling contractor, will pay $650,000 to a fired worker and hundreds of unsuccessful job applicants to resolve a lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, HWD hired Wilbert Glover as a rig hand before forcing him to undergo an unlawful medical exam and then fired him based on health information it obtained from the exam. The agency also alleged HWD rejected rig hand applicants who were older than 40 because of their age.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabil­ities Act (ADA), which restricts the use of medical exams in employment and prohibits employers from taking adverse employment actions against individuals because of disabilities. These alleged actions also violate the Age Dis­crimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which protects applicants and employees who are 40 and older from dis­crimination because of age. The EEOC filed its lawsuit (Equal Employ­ment Opportunity Commis­sion v. Horizontal Well Drillers LLC, No. 17-cv-0879-J) in August 2017 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit, entered by Judge Bernard M. Jones, requires HWD to pay monetary damages to Wilbert Glover and up to 484 applicants for whom the EEOC sought relief in the lawsuit. HWD liquidated and ceased all business operations in late 2019.

“Oil rig drilling positions are physically and mentally demanding,” said Andrea G. Baran, the EEOC’s regional attorney in St. Louis. “But that doesn’t mean people over 40 can’t do them success­fully. The purpose of the ADEA is to ensure that experienced and qualified individuals are not denied employment opportunities as they grow older.”

The EEOC’s St. Louis District director, L. Jack Vasquez, added, “Employers can lawfully require pre-employment physicals, but medical examinations of existing employees are permitted only in very limited circumstances. Even when examinations are permitted, employers may not unlawfully terminate qualified workers based on exam results.”

The EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and a portion of southern Illinois.

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