As every good employer knows, the Americans with Disabilities Act prevents companies from discriminating against employees and applicants based upon their disabilities. But as a case demonstrates, repeated and/or company-wide failures to follow the ADA’s guidelines, including those which were part of the ADA Amendments Act passed a few years ago, can cost employers big money.
In 2013 the EEOC (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) filed a class action suit against Georgia Power Company, an electric utility company headquartered in Atlanta, alleging multiple violations of the ADA. A consent decree settling the suit was filed with the court on Nov. 15, 2016. The total settlement award? $1,586,500.
The EEOC claimed that the Georgia Power Company committed multiple ADA violations by disregarding the opinions of treating physicians who provided documentation supporting the employees’ and applicants’ ability to work. Georgia Power simply refused to hire disabled applicants or return employees to work following medical absences, rather than conducting independent evaluations of each employee or applicant. Georgia Power was also accused of improperly automatically disqualifying employees and applicants under Georgia Power’s seizure policy or its drug and alcohol policy. The consent decree also requires Georgia Power to take additional steps in order to ensure that such violations do not continue in the future.
The law requires that a company consider an employee’s ability to work on a case-by-case basis. If you have questions about the ADA and whether your policy is in compliance with these laws, you should consult an attorney in order to protect your practice.