Denying Employment Based on Carpal Tunnel Screening Was Unlawful, Court Ruled
ST. LOUIS - Amsted Rail Co., Inc., a leading manufacturer of steel castings for the rail industry, will pay $4.4 million and furnish other relief to settle a class disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today. The EEOC had charged the Chicago-based company violated federal disability law when it disqualified job applicants based on the results of a nerve conduction test for carpal tunnel syndrome (performed by a third-party contractor) rather than conducting an individualized assessment of each applicant's ability to do the job safely.
The EEOC filed its lawsuit in 2014 (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Amsted Rail Co., Inc., Civil Action No. 14-cv-1292-JPG-SCW) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois seeking relief for Montrell Ingram and other applicants who sought work as "chippers" at the company's Granite City, Ill., facility. Chippers use a hammer or grinder to remove metal protrusions from steel casings. In November 2017, the court ruled Amsted Rail's use of the nerve conduction test was unlawful, finding that it had little or no value in predicting the likelihood of future injury. (EEOC v. Amsted Rail Co., 280 F. Supp. 3d 1141 (S.D. Ill. 2017)).
The consent decree entered yesterday by Senior Judge J. Phil Gilbert requires Amsted Rail to provide lost wages and compensatory damages to 40 applicants who were unlawfully denied employment opportunities because of the company's unlawful hiring practices. In addition, the company will make job offers to some of the applicants and will adopt policies that will prevent similar discriminatory practices in the future.
"While it is lawful under some circumstances for employers to conduct limited medical exams after making conditional offers to job applicants, it is not 'anything goes'," said Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for the EEOC's St Louis District Office. "If workers are concerned about whether a particular medical exam is lawful or necessary, they should ask questions and seek legal advice if necessary."
EEOC St. Louis District Director James R. Neely, Jr. added, "Employers cannot avoid liability for unlawful discrimination by contracting out pre-employment medical screening and hiring functions and must be diligent to comply with the ADA when they rely on third-party medical vendors. Moving forward, we're hopeful that Amsted's compliance with the consent decree will provide equal opportunities to all applicants, without respect to disability."
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