Business Management and Logistic Consulting Services Company Failed to Promote Woman It Perceived as Disabled, Federal Agency Says
ALEXANDRIA, Va. – Maximus, Inc., headquartered in Reston, Va., violated federal law when it refused to promote a female employee because it regarded her as disabled, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it filed today. Maximus has locations in the United States, Canada, Australia, and the United Kingdom, and employs more than 6,500 employees.
According to the EEOC’s complaint, Thelma Austin was hired by Maximus as a client services representative (CSR) on January 16, 2007. Around July 24, 2009, Austin applied for a promotion to the position of senior client services representative (SCSR). The next day Austin suffered a stroke and was out of work until Oct. 5, 2009. She worked until Oct. 16, when her leg gave way as a result of the residual effects from the stroke, and she fell. Austin was out of work again on medical leave until Nov. 9.
Austin returned to work around Nov. 9, 2009, with a medical clearance form that cleared her to work but indicated that Austin would need “physical therapy at some point.” Later that same day, Austin was informed that while she was qualified for the SCSR position, she had not been selected due to her need for physical therapy in the future.
According to the complaint, Austin was told specifically that Maximus was concerned she might miss the mandatory training required for all individuals promoted to the SCSR position because of her need for physical therapy. Although Austin assured Maximus that she would attend all of the required training, Maximus did not select her based on its unsubstantiated fears that she would not be present for all of the training. The complaint alleges that Austin was at work and available to attend the mandatory training, and would have attended the training but for Maximus’s unlawful disqualification of her.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which protects employees and applicants from discrimination based on their disabilities, including perceived disabilities. The EEOC filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Maximus, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:11-cv-1022) after first attempting to reach a voluntary settlement out of court. The EEOC seeks back pay, compensatory damages and punitive damages for Austin, as well as injunctive and other non-monetary relief.
“It is unfortunate that many employers still deny work opportunities to people simply because of inaccurate perceptions about medical impairments and disabilities,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Lynette A. Barnes, of the agency’s Charlotte District, which includes Virginia.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the EEOC is available on the agency’s web site at www.eeoc.gov.