$1,586,500 Settlement in Disability Discrimination Suit, Training Ordered

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

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

 Georgia Power Company, an electric utility company headquartered in Atlanta, will pay $1,586,500 to settle a class disability discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

EEOC filed suit in 2013, charging that Georgia Power Company violated federal law by refusing to hire applicants and firing employees based on their disabilities or perceived disabilities. According to EEOC's complaint, in some cases, Georgia Power disregarded the opinions of treating physicians who supported the employees' and applicants' ability to work. Rather than independently evaluating each employee or applicant, Georgia Power simply refused to hire disabled applicants or return employees to work following a medically related absence, the agency alleged. EEOC said that in other cases, Georgia Power automatically disqualified employees and applicants under its seizure policy or its drug and alcohol policy, without individually assessing the employees' or applicants' ability to work. The company's discriminatory policies and practices affected 24 individuals, EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against employees and applicants who have actual disabilities, have a record of a disability or whom the employer perceives as having an actual disability. EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Georgia Power Company, Civil Action No. 1:13-cv-03225-AT) in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The consent decree settling the suit was filed with the court on November 15, 2016. In addition to monetary relief totaling $1,586,500, Georgia Power has agreed to change both its seizure policy and its drug and alcohol policy to ensure compliance with the ADA. Georgia Power also agreed to provide equal employment opportunity training to its employees and to post anti-discrimination notices at its facilities. In addition, the three-year decree requires Georgia Power to be subject to reporting and monitoring requirements. This will include the obligation to report to EEOC each time that Georgia Power does not hire an applicant because of a disability or does not allow an employee to return to work because of a disability.

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