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U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission



PRESS RELEASE
9-30-13

Georgia Power Company Sued by EEOC for Disability Discrimination

Utility Company Prevented Employees From Returning to  Work and Refused to Hire Applicants Because of Disabilities, Federal Agency  Charged

ATLANTA - An electric utility company headquartered in Atlanta  unlawfully discriminated against a class of employees and applicants because of  their disabilities, the U.S. Equal Employment Oppor­tunity Commission (EEOC)  charged in a lawsuit it filed today in Atlanta.

According to the EEOC's suit, Georgia Power Company violated  federal law by not allowing employees to return to work after receiving  treatment for their conditions and being cleared by their treating physicians.  The agency also charges Georgia Power with  refusing to hire applicants because of their disabilities or because it  perceived them as disabled.  According to  the EEOC's complaint, Georgia Power's medical director disregarded the  employees' and applicants' treating physicians' opinions as to their ability to  work and, without independently evaluating them, simply recommended against hiring  or returning them to work.  Georgia Power  subsequently discharged the employees who were not allowed to return.

Disability discrimination violates the Americans with  Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against  employees and applicants with disabilities or with a record of a disability.  In addition, it is a violation of the ADA for employers  to discriminate against employees because the employer perceives such persons  to be disabled.  The EEOC filed suit (EEOC  v. Georgia Power Company, Civil Action No. 1:13-cv-03225) in U.S. District  Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division after first  attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation  process.  The EEOC is seeking  reinstatement, back pay and compensatory and punitive damages for the employees  and applicants, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent future  discrimination practices.

"An employer cannot terminate or refuse to hire an employee  because of a disability, or merely because it perceives that person to be  disabled," said Robert Dawkins, regional attorney for the EEOC's Atlanta  District Office.  "Here, the employees  and applicants were ready, willing and able to work, but the company refused to  let them work because of their disabilities or what it assumed were  disabilities.  Such conduct violates federal  law."

Bernice Williams-Kimbrough, district director of the Atlanta  office, said, "The EEOC is committed to stopping workplace disability  discrimination in Georgia and across the country.  Given the size of the employer and the number  of people it employs in Georgia, this lawsuit could assist in protecting the  rights of a large number of employees."

Eliminating barriers in recruitment and hiring, especially  class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against racial,  ethnic and religious groups, older workers, women, and people with disabilities,  is one of six national priorities identified by the EEOC's Strategic Enforce­ment  Plan.

The Atlanta  District Office of the EEOC enforces the federal employment discrimination laws  in Georgia and parts of South Carolina.  The  EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws against employment discrimination.  Further information is available at www.eeoc.gov.