The EEOC sued a Denver beverage distributor under the ADA, claiming that it eliminated a legally blind employee’s job as a driver’s helper, and refused to hire him as a night warehouse loader because it believed that he could not safely perform the functions of loading cases of liquor and kegs of beer into trucks.  (NB: the words “believed that he could not” should immediately remind employers that the ADA has a prohibition against discriminating on the basis of a “perception of disability”).

After trial, a jury just awarded the employee $132,347 in back pay plus interest, and the Court ordered that he be hired “as a night warehouse loader with the same seniority that he would have had BDC not withdrawn the job offer due to his eyesight.”

As anticipated, the EEOC warned employers about stereotypical assumptions:  “Employers must provide accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities and must base all employment-related decisions on facts, not stereotypical assumptions about an employee’s abilities.”

Perhaps of greater significance to employers as they assess their own workplaces is what the Judge held at the trial.  He found that the company’s “managers and human resources professionals demonstrated a lack of sufficient knowledge about the ADA, its interactive process, and the requirement that reasonable accommodations be provided to employees.”

He also found that the employee handbook was insufficient to explain to employees how they can request accommodations, and also set forth inaccurate information about tis own legal obligations.

The Court ordered the company to hire an outside consultant to provide employee training and help revise its policies, job postings, notice posting, and reporting and compliance review.

Can’t help but thinking that it would have been so much cheaper and infinitely less stressful and distracting if the employer had hired the consultant beforehand and been knowledgeable about and in compliance with the law before the trouble began.

“Penny wise …”