Paper Manufacturer Subjected Employees to Improper Medical Examinations and Refused to Hire Qualified Worker Because of His Disability, Federal Agency Says
PHILADELPHIA - P.H. Glatfelter, a global paper manufacturer headquartered in York, Pa., violated federal law by subjecting individuals to improper medical examinations and by taking adverse employment actions against qualified individuals based on their disabilities, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
According to EEOC's suit, Glatfelter requires all individuals who apply for or work in positions involving operation of forklifts or similar industrial trucks to undergo a medical examination and pass a qualification standard based on an overly broad application of the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) physical qualification standards for the operation of commercial motor vehicles. Federal law does not require drivers of forklifts to pass the DOT standards for commercial motor vehicles, nor does Glatfelter itself require forklift operators at its Chillicothe, Ohio facility to pass the DOT standards, EEOC said.
EEOC charges that when a company medical examination revealed that Charles Stevens had monocular vision, Glatfelter applied its overly broad qualification standard and rescinded its offer for Stevens to work at its Spring Grove, Pa., facility. According to the suit, Glatfelter reached this determination without any individualized assessment of Stevens' actual ability to operate a forklift and despite his years of prior work experience safely and effectively operating forklifts and other industrial vehicles. Glatfelter unlawfully withdrew Stevens' conditional job offer based solely on his disability, EEOC said.
Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which makes it illegal to discriminate on the basis of disability, including by adopting improper qualification standards. The ADA also places strict limits on employers when it comes to subjecting individuals, regardless of disability, to medical examinations or inquiries. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. P.H. Glatfelter, Civil Action No. 15-cv-01881) in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. EEOC is seeking back pay, compensatory and punitive damages and injunctive relief on behalf of Stevens and other aggrieved individuals.
"Subjecting applicants and employees for positions involving operation of forklifts to this overly broad qualification standard disproportionately and improperly screened out Mr. Stevens and other qualified individuals based on their disability," said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis., Jr. "The evidence gathered during the investigation, including evidence that Glatfelter does not administer this standard to forklift operators at another of its facilities, shows that the standard is not job-related and consistent with business necessity under the ADA."
EEOC Philadelphia District Office Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, "Glatfelter offered Mr. Stevens the job, which demonstrates it considered him otherwise qualified for the position, but then improperly rescinded the offer solely based on his not meeting an overly broad and inapposite standard, and the resulting broad assumptions it made about his disability. Employment decisions should be made based on the individual's qualifications for the job and not on fears or biases about people with disabilities."
One of the six national priorities identified by EEOC's Strategic Enforcement Plan is for the Commission to address emerging and developing issues in equal employment opportunity law, including certain ADA issues such as the use of qualification standards.
Attorneys in EEOC's Philadelphia District litigate prosecute cases in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, West Virginia, the District of Columbia, and in parts of New Jersey, Ohio, and Virginia.
EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available at its website, www.eeoc.gov.