Norman, Oklahoma — Springfield, Missouri-based dairy producer and distributor Hiland Dairy Foods has committed $140,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission (EEOC). It will pay, the commission announced on Friday.
The lawsuit says Hiland refused to hire a man to work at the Norman Dairy Factory because he was visually impaired. Hiland initially offered the applicant a dairy worker job knowing he was disabled, but withdrew the offer after a standard pre-employment medical examination, the lawsuit alleges. are doing.
According to court records, the examining doctor claimed the man was “legally blind” and therefore had “safety concerns.” The lawsuit also alleges that the doctor based his opinion solely on a vision test.
“Neither Hyland nor the physicians considered whether assistive devices or other reasonable accommodations could mitigate potential safety concerns,” the EEOC said in a statement.
The EEOC said the alleged conduct in the lawsuit violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability. The Commission filed suit in May 2021 in the United States District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. The EEOC said the lawsuit was filed after attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through a “mediation process.”
The five-year consent order would require Hiland Dairy to pay the applicant $140,000 in monetary damages, adopt policies, enact procedures, and train employees to ensure future ADA compliance. be requested to provide. The statute also requires Hiland Dairy to notify employees of their reasonable accommodation rights under the ADA and to periodically report to her EEOC.
“The ADA requires employers to evaluate workers with disabilities based on their actual ability to perform the job, with or without reasonable accommodation, and not on unreasonable fears or stereotypes.” said Andrea G. Baran, EEOC District Attorney in St. Louis. “Labels like ‘legally blind’ have nothing to do with an individual’s ability to work.”
David Davis, acting director of the EEOC’s St. Louis area office, said: “Employers cannot shirk their duty to provide reasonable accommodation to workers based on unsubstantiated ‘safety concerns.'”
The EEOC’s St. Louis District Office is responsible for investigating and filing agency lawsuits in response to allegations of employment discrimination in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and parts of southern Illinois. We have regional offices in City, Kansas, and Oklahoma City.
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