December 21, 2022
Source: U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)
Manufacturer Refused to Hire Steel Worker Based on Possible Side Effects from His Prescription Medication, Federal Agency Charges
Outokumpu Stainless USA, LLC agreed to pay $49,000 to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), the federal agency announced today.
Outokumpu, a global stainless-steel producer, employs more than 900 persons at its Calvert, Alabama facility. According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, Outokumpu offered a qualified applicant a position as an entry operator in its melt shop contingent on the applicant passing a physical examination and drug screening by Occupational Health Center (OHC), a third-party company that conducts pre-employment health screenings. According to the EEOC, the OHC examiner identified possible side effects of a prescription anxiety medication the applicant sometimes took, and then Outokumpu withdrew the applicant’s job offer.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prohibits employers from discriminating against job applicants based on a disability, including practices that screen out or tend to screen out individuals with disabilities from employment. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Outokumpu Stainless USA, LLC, Case No. 1:20-cv-00521, S.D. Ala.) in federal court in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Alabama after its Birmingham District Office completed an investigation and after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement during its voluntary conciliation process.
“An employer is required under the ADA to ensure that any post-offer, pre-employment medical screening is an individualized assessment of the applicant, even when that exam is carried out by a third-party medical provider,” said Bradley Anderson, district director of the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office. “Employers may not rely on assumptions to medically screen out qualified applicants, but, instead, must consider whether a reasonable accommodation would permit the applicant to perform the job.”
Marsha Rucker, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Birmingham District Office, added, “Before disqualifying an applicant or employee based on a disability-related medication, an employer should determine whether use of the medication poses an actual, not merely possible, safety issue. This requires consideration of the most current medical knowledge or best available objective evidence, often including discussion with the applicant or employee or the prescribing physician, to determine how the medication affects the applicant and whether it actually causes any unsafe side effects during working hours.”
Under the two-year consent decree settling the suit, Outokumpu will pay $49,000 to the applicant it rejected, develop or revise policies and procedures to prevent disability discrimination, and train its management and human resources employees on these polices and the ADA.
Outokumpu must also require its medical providers to undergo training on the requirements under the ADA for an individualized assessment in pre-employment medical examinations. In addition, Outokumpu must require its medical provider to give written instructions to any applicant found not medically qualified regarding the applicant’s rights under the ADA, including the right to a reasonable accommodation. The EEOC will monitor Outokumpu’s compliance for the duration of the decree.
The EEOC’s Birmingham District Office enforces federal employment civil rights laws throughout Alabama, Mississippi (except 17 northern counties), and the Florida Panhandle.
More information about disability discrimination is available at Disability Discrimination and Employment Decisions | U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (eeoc.gov).
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