$167,500 Settlement Against Aircraft Company for Disability Discrimination, Training Ordered

Monday, February 29, 2016

Question:  Would disability discrimination training have prevented this case?  See our trainings at http://www.hrclassroom.com.

Cessna Aircraft Company will pay $167,500 and furnish other relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

EEOC's lawsuit charged that Wichita, Kan.-based Cessna failed to make the required individualized assessment of the ability of conditional employees to perform the essential functions of jobs but instead relied on workers' compensation standards. The violations were found in Milwaukee and Wichita based on what appeared to be a company-wide policy. In one case, Cessna required a conditional employee to meet national maximum medical improvement standards to be eligible to work, despite the employee providing medical documentation that he could work without restriction. Cessna rescinded the job offer of this employee on the basis that he would not reach maximum medical improvement within a specified time period. In another case, EEOC said, Cessna withdrew its job offer from an employee with a history of workers' compensation restrictions without regard for his subsequent improvement and ability to provide medical documentation of his ability to work without restriction.

This alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination against qualified individuals with disabilities. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Cessna Aircraft Company No. 2:15-cv-01166) against Cessna in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin in September 2015 after first trying to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit, signed by U.S. District Judge Lynn Adelman, requires Cessna to pay two former conditional employees a combined $167,500, prohibits any such discrimination in the future, and requires reporting to EEOC for two years. Cessna must also create a new ADA policy that explicitly states that applicants are not required to meet maximum medical improvement or have a permanent disability prior to being eligible for an accommodation. The decree also limits additional medical inquiries required for those conditional employees with impairments who have provided medical documentation of ability to work without restriction, and ties additional medical inquiries to the essential functions of the job.

In addition, Cessna must train its human resources and health services employees on disability discrimination, reasonable accommodation and retaliation under the ADA, as well as on the interplay of workers' compensation laws and the ADA. A Cessna executive-level employee will personally address the staff before every training session with a message that Cessna takes its obligation under all equal employment opportunity laws seriously and will state Cessna's non-retaliation policy.

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