U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission
Copper Manufacturer Refused to Hire Applicant Because of His Participation in Medically Supervised Drug Rehabilitation Program, Federal Agency Charged
PITTSBURGH – A major copper parts manufacturer will pay $85,000 and furnish significant remedial relief to settle a federal disability discrimination lawsuit, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announced today. The EEOC had charged that Hussey Copper, Ltd. unlawfully refused to hire a job applicant because of his record of a disability and because they regarded him as disabled.
According to the EEOC’s suit, Leetsdale, Pa.-based Hussey Copper offered Donald Teaford a job as a production laborer but later unlawfully rescinded the job offer based on his disability. The job offer had been conditioned on Teaford passing a physical examination. As a result of the post-job offer examination, the company’s doctor learned that Teaford was receiving methadone as part of a clinically supervised chemical dependency treatment program. The company then rescinded the job offer, mistakenly concluding that Teaford was a safety risk due to his methadone treatments, the EEOC said. Teaford was qualified for the position, was not experiencing adverse side effects from the methadone treatments, and the treatment program provided the company’s doctor with information verifying Teaford’s successful and compliant participation in the program.
“Methadone treatment is one of the most monitored and regulated medical treatments in the United States,” said District Director Spencer H. Lewis, Jr. of the EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office, which oversees Pennsylvania, Delaware, West Virginia, Maryland and parts of New Jersey and Ohio. “This case should remind all employers that the ADA requires employers to make individualized assessments about an individual’s ability to do the job instead of acting out of speculative fears or biases.”
Refusing to hire a qualified individual because of his disability, record of disability or because the employer perceives a person as being disabled violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, Civil Action No. 08-809, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.
The parties reached agreement to settle the case by consent decree after conducting a three-day non-jury trial in federal court. In addition to the $85,000 in monetary relief to Teaford, Hussey Copper will hire him as a mason utility laborer. The five-year consent decree resolving the lawsuit enjoins Hussey Copper from further engaging in any employment practice that discriminates based on disability. The decree mandates that Hussey Copper will revise and disseminate policies prohibiting discrimination based on disability and must set up procedures for promptly investigating and addressing such misconduct. The company must also provide anti-discrimination training and post a notice on the settlement.
EEOC Regional Attorney Debra Lawrence said, “We are pleased that in addition to the monetary relief and the injunctive relief that will benefit all company employees and applicants, Hussey Copper will also hire Mr. Teaford. He now has the opportunity to earn a living performing a job for which he is well-qualified.”
In Fiscal Year 2010, private sector workplace discrimination charge filings with the EEOC hit an unprecedented level of 99,922, which included a record-high number of disability charges (25,165) – an increase of 17.3 percent in disability charges over the prior fiscal year.
According to company information, Hussey Copper is the world’s leading producer of copper busbar (a thick strip of copper or aluminum that conducts electricity within a switchboard, distribution board, substation or other electrical apparatus).
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on its web site at www.eeoc.gov.