Employment discrimination often occurs during the hiring process itself, before a job applicant even receives an offer of an employment. For example, some employers may attempt to require medical examinations as part of the interview process. This is illegal. The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) forbids pre-offer inquiries about an applicant's medical condition or possible disabilities. Additionally, the Genetic Information Non-Discrimination Act (GINA) severely restricts an employer's ability to seek information about a job applicant's family medical history.
NYC Utility Accused of Demoting, Firing Workers Due to Medical Conditions
On September 21, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which oversees federal enforcement of the ADA and GINA, sued one of New York's most powerful utilities, Con Ed, alleging multiple acts of employment discrimination involving improper pre-offer medical examinations. The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan federal court, seeks monetary relief on behalf of the affected job applicants and an injunction to prevent further ADA and GINA violations in the future. Of course, this lawsuit is simply a statement of allegations, which the EEOC must still prove in court.
According to the EEOC's complaint, Con Ed rejected a series of applicants “because of their actual or perceived disabilities after pre-hire medical examinations.” The utility also allegedly “requested genetic information” from job applicants contrary to GINA. None of the affected applicants were offered positions with Con Ed.
The EEOC said Con Ed's illegal conduct dates back more than five years. One applicant, a woman with an unspecified disability that requires medication, applied for a job as a customer field representative. The EEOC said she was “required to attend a pre-employment medical exam,” and was not offered a position after the company subsequently learned of her disability.
In other cases, the EEOC said Con Ed discriminated against existing employees by imposing medically unnecessary restrictions on their employment. The EEOC cited the case of a former technical supervisor who suffered from epilepsy and sleep apnea. Although his conditions “did not affect his workplace performance,” the EEOC said Con Ed “found him unfit for duty” and ultimately fired him.
In yet another, the EEOC said Con Ed demoted a truck driver because he suffered from diabetes. Although diabetes did not affect the employee's ability to actually perform his job, Con Ed allegedly moved the employee to another position where he earned less pay. The EEOC said this was not medically justified, as the employee could still perform “the essential functions of his position.”
Have You Been Discriminated Against Due to a Medical Condition?
Employers often try to avoid hiring workers with medical conditions because they want to avoid the potential expense of providing benefits like sick leave, or even the cost of making “reasonable accommodations” as required by the ADA. Employers do not get to circumvent the laws just because they find them inconvenient.
If you have been forced to complete a pre-hire medical exam or been deprived of job opportunities because of a medical disability, you need to speak with an experienced New York employment law attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Law Offices of Mahir S. Nisar today to schedule a consultation.