In a very interesting case out of Jackson, Mississippi, an employer was found to be using a hiring formula that targeted applicants with a history of sick leave for rejection. The EEOC rejected this action as a form of disability discrimination.
The case against Faurecia Automotive Seating
The sixth largest international automotive parts manufacturer, Faurecia Automotive Seating, LLC, has been charged with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by denying employment to applicants based on perceived disability or association with someone having a disability. Faurecia is headquartered in Nanterre, France, but currently has plants in Mississippi, Alabama, South Carolina, and Michigan. Faurecia has more than 97,000 employees in 34 countries.
According to the lawsuit filed by the EEOC, the company refused to consider Neda Sykes-Travis and a class of 10 other applicants, all of whom were formerly employed by Johnson Controls, Inc. Faurecia allegedly disqualified these applicants based primarily on their record of sick leave or FMLA with their former employers.
Improper and discriminatory hiring formula
According to the allegations in the lawsuit, all of the applicants were required to sign an authorization allowing Faurecia to access their prior employment records regarding discipline and leave. When Faurecia obtained said information, they used it to determine which individuals to reject based on the length of time the employee had been on medical or FMLA leave. Additionally, these applicants' former employer provided Faurecia with a list of all employees currently on leave from work, including the reason for the leave, as well as a list of job-related injuries.
Discrimination in violation of the ADA
All of the applicants named in the lawsuit had taken leaves of absence from Johnson Controls at some point between 2009 and 2010, either for their own medical conditions or to care for someone with a medical condition. As the regional attorney for the EEOC's Birmingham District Office explained, "Failure to hire an individual because of a disability violates federal law. The ADA also prohibits employers from discriminating against an applicant or employee because of their association with an individual who has a disability. In order to safeguard themselves from litigation, employers must be cognizant of these restrictions during the hiring process."
The Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits employers from discriminating against “qualified” individuals with disabilities with regard to employment decisions. The prohibition extends to job application procedures, hiring and firing practices and policies, promotions, discipline, compensation, job training and many other “terms, conditions and privileges of employment.
The EEOC files suit on behalf of the job applicants
EEOC filed suit in this matter in U.S. District Court for the District of Mississippi, Greenville Division after attempts to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process were unsuccessful. The EEOC is seeking monetary relief in the form of back pay, compensatory and punitive damages, on behalf of the applicants, and a permanent injunction enjoining Faurecia from future discrimination on the basis of disability.
If you feel you have been the victim of discrimination or retaliation, or if you have any questions regarding your employment rights, please contact Wrady & Michel, LLC, either online or by calling us at (205) 265-1880.