Claremore Manufacturer Denied Permanent Job to Temp Because of Questionable Medical Exam, Federal Agency Charges
ST. LOUIS - UPCO, Inc., a Claremore-Okla.-based leading manufacturer of sucker rods and accessories for the oil and gas industry, violated federal law when it refused to hire a temporary worker for a permanent job on the basis of a supposed disability that emerged during a questionable medical exam, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.
According to EEOC's suit, Lydia Summers began working at UPCO as a temporary receptionist at the front desk and assisting in the accounting department. After five successful months on the job, UPCO made Summers a conditional offer of full-time, permanent employment as a receptionist / accounts payable clerk. The offer was conditioned on Summers passing a pre-employment medical exam conducted by a third-party vendor called OneSource. Following the exam, a physician for OneSource, who did not examine or question Summers, refused to approve her for employment with UPCO because of the supposed side effects of her prescription medications. Summers provided UPCO a letter from her physician stating that she did not suffer ill effects or impairments from her medications; however, without additional inquiry into her condition, the company rescinded its job offer.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Oklahoma (EEOC v. UPCO Inc., Case No. 4:16-cv-00609-CVE-TLW) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages, along with injunctive relief to prevent and address any future disability discrimination.
"While pre-employment medical exams may be lawful under certain circumstances, using information obtained in such exams to discriminate against qualified applicants who are able to perform the job is not," said James R. Neely, Jr., director of EEOC's St. Louis District Office. "Eliminating barriers to recruitment and hiring is one of EEOC's six Strategic Enforcement Plan priorities, for good reasons."
Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for EEOC's St. Louis District, said, "Employment decisions, including hiring decisions, must be based on a person's ability to perform the job, not on stereotypes, assumptions or conjecture. An individualized assessment of the applicant's present ability to safely perform the job duties is required if an employer screens out an applicant based on medical tests or exams in the hiring process."
Patrick Holman, a senior trial attorney in EEOC's Oklahoma Area Office, added, "Too often employers sit back and rely on unreasonable medical judgments of third parties that do not comply with the ADA, and expect immunity for their actions. Such reliance is especially disconcerting when the employee successfully performs the job duties for six months without incident or concern and then is medically disqualified by a doctor who never met her."
According to its website, UPCO is the second largest company in the world for the production of sucker rods for the oil and gas industry. In December 2012, UPCO was acquired by Dover Corporation and is now part of the Dover artificial lift business segment, which supports the oil and gas industry.
EEOC is responsible for enforcing federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. The St. Louis District Office oversees Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and a portion of southern Illinois. Further information about EEOC is available on its website at www.eeoc.gov.