Settlement of Disability Discrimination Suit Involving Prohibited Pre-Offer Medical Inquiries

Thursday, September 7, 2017
KB Staffing LLC, a staffing firm servicing central Florida, will create a class damages fund and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced. The EEOC had charged that the company made unlawful pre-offer health inquiries of applicants in violation of federal law.

According to EEOC's lawsuit, from 2011 to 2013, KB Staffing asked all applicants to complete a paper application package with a detailed medical questionnaire before the company offered the applicant a position or placement. The suit further alleged that although KB Staffing represented that it changed its process in 2013, it still required applicants to complete a medical questionnaire prior to any job offer in some instances after that date. The medical questionnaires asked for sensitive health information and included numerous disability-related questions.

Last week the court approved a consent decree resolving the case in which KB Staffing agreed to provide a $22,500 class fund, representing compensatory and punitive damages, designed to compensate applicants who were forced to disclose their sensitive medical and disability-related information in the application process. The three-year decree requires the company to affirmatively recruit individuals with disabilities, adopt and distribute a policy regarding disability discrimination, and train its management on the ADA's prohibition against disability discrimination, including its requirements regarding medical examinations and screenings. KB Staffing must certify each year that it has not made disability-related inquiries which are not consistent with business necessity and that it has maintained the confidentiality of its employees' medical information. The company must also report detailed information concerning any disability discrimination complaints and post a notice concerning the lawsuit.

This resolution closely follows several court orders entered in the EEOC's favor in this case, which includes an order permitting the EEOC to file an amended complaint. The court recognized that applicants who completed the intrusive pre-offer medical questionnaire could be awarded damages in the absence of being denied employment. The court explained the damages suffered by the class, saying "[i]t is reasonable to infer that emotional or other damages may have been caused by the embarrassment or distress of answering the specific question alleged in the proposed Amended Complaint regarding private and/or sensitive medical information, which include questions about mental health conditions and/or treatment, or disabilities." The amended complaint was filed on Aug. 10.

"Congress recognized that prohibiting pre-offer medical inquiries was necessary to prevent applicants from being subjected to harmful and unfounded stereotypes on the basis of an actual or perceived disability," said EEOC Regional Attorney Robert Weisberg. "As staffing agencies now play a large role in our nation's workforce, eliminating any discrimination in their screening practices is increasingly important to ensuring that workers with disabilities have equal access to work opportuĀ­nities."

EEOC Tampa Field Director Evangeline Hawthorne added, "As a result of this resolution, applicants in Central Florida should have less concern that their employer will improperly collect and potentially use sensitive and private medical information, unfairly excluding them from jobs they can readily perform with or without accommodation."
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