Agency Charges Ellicott City Surveying Company Fired Longtime Employees for Diabetes and Other Medical Conditions
BALTIMORE -- An Ellicott City, Md., surveying company violated federal law when it fired two employees who had diabetes and hypertension because of their illnesses, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced today.
In its suit, the EEOC said that the Howard County firm of Fisher, Collins & Carter discriminated against Robert Gray and Wayne Seifert when it discharged them shortly after requesting that they and all other employees respond to a questionnaire regarding their health conditions, medical issues and medications. Gray had worked for the company for 15 years starting as a rodman and was a party chief at his termination. Seifert had been employed since 2000 as a rodman. The suit asserts that despite their successful performance throughout their careers, the company unlawfully fired them on January 21, 2009.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) makes it unlawful to discriminate against a qualified individual because of a disability. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Fisher, Collins & Carter, Case No. 10-cv-2453) in U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, Northern Division, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement. The complaint seeks a permanent injunction enjoining the company from engaging in any future employment practice that discriminates on the basis of a disability; the implementation of written policies to provide equal employment opportunities for qualified individuals with disabilities; monetary and injunctive relief, including back wages, compensatory and punitive damages for both men; and changes in employment policies to provide equal employment opportunities for qualified individuals with disabilities.
“Diabetes is becoming more common in the United States, yet many employers still make employment decisions based on myths, fears or stereotypes about that condition,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence. “We brought this lawsuit because the underlying purpose of the ADA is to eliminate discrimination for people with disabilities who are qualified to do the job.”
This case is one of three ADA suits announced by the agency today, all of which were brought under the broader and simplified definition of disability set forth in the ADA Amendments Act. The other two are EEOC v. Eckerd Corporation d/b/a Rite Aid, Civil Action No. 1:10-cv-2816-JEC, filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, in which a long-term employee with severe degenerative arthritis was denied the use of a stool she had used as a reasonable accommodation for six years; and EEOC v. IPC Print Services (Case No. 10-cv-886 in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan), which involved the discharge of an employee with cancer who requested a temporary part-time schedule as an accommodation of his disability.
“These cases, among the first filed by the EEOC under the ADA Amendments Act, illustrate the continuing need for rigorous enforcement of the law, as well as further education about the ADA’s requirements,” said General Counsel David Lopez. “Congress has made the scope of the ADA clear and broad: Individuals with disabilities — including serious medical conditions such as cancer, diabetes, and severe arthritis — must be evaluated according to their qualifications, and not based on unfounded fears or stereotypes.
During fiscal year 2009, disability discrimination charges reached a record level of 21,451-- an increase of 10 percent from the prior fiscal year.
The EEOC enforces federal laws prohibiting employment discrimination. Further information about the Commission is available at its web site at www.eeoc.gov.