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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
5-24-11

KobeWieland Copper to Pay $84,750 to Settle EEOC Disability Discrimination Lawsuit

Major Copper Tubing Manufacturer Rescinded Offer of Employment to Qualified Employee Because of Perceived Disability, Federal Agency Charged

GREENSBORO, N.C. – KobeWieland Copper Products, LLC has agreed to pay $84,750 and provide other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the agency announced today. KobeWieland manufactures and sells copper tubing, and employs over 500 associates between its two plants in Pine Hall, N.C. and Wheeling, Ill. The EEOC had charged that KobeWieland rescinded an offer of employment to an applicant at its facility in Pine Hall because the hiring official perceived the person as disabled because he was missing fingers on his left hand.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Joseph Cardwell lost fingers on his left hand due to a childhood accident. Cardwell was offered a position as a caster by KobeWieland on Sept. 24, 2008. However, when Cardwell reported for his first day of work, a KobeWieland human resource specialist noticed that Cardwell was missing fingers, and immediately rescinded the offer of employment. The human resource specialist stated that he was concerned that Cardwell could not do the job because of his missing fingers. Cardwell was fully qualified for the position and could perform the job, the EEOC said, but was denied the job because KobeWieland regarded him as disabled solely because of his missing fingers.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects people against discrimination because of perceived disabilities as well as actual ones. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, Winston-Salem Division (EEOC v. KobeWieland Copper Products, LLC, Civil Action No. 1:10-cv-636) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

In addition to providing monetary relief to Cardwell, KobeWieland has agreed to post a copy of its anti-discrimination policy in its facilities, and provide training on the ADA and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to all managers and supervisors. Further, KobeWieland agreed to notify the EEOC of any applicants that disclose a disability or are disqualified from employment as a result of a post-offer medical examination by the company over the next two years.

“It’s unfortunate that 20 years after the enactment of the ADA, some employers still react to applicants and employees based on myths, fears and stereotypes about certain conditions,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Lynette A. Barnes of the agency’s Charlotte District Office. “Making decisions based upon those considerations, rather than an objective analysis of a person’s actual capabilities, constitutes disability discrimination and is a violation of federal law.”

EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney Tina Burnside added, “The ADA requires that all employees be given equal opportunity to jobs regardless of actual or perceived disabilities, and employers should not make decisions based on perceptions about someone’s supposed impairment. We are pleased that this settlement provides training to managers and supervisors about the ADA’s requirements.”

The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting discrimination. More information about the EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.