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New England firms sued for refusing to hire dyslexic carpenter


Federal regulators have sued two New England-based construction companies for allegedly refusing to hire a carpenter with dyslexia.

McPhee Electric Ltd. and Bond Bros. Inc. — based in Farmington, Connecticut, and Everett, Massachusetts, respectively — are accused of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not hiring Kevin Lebovitz, who applied for a carpentry job with the companies in 2012, according to a lawsuit the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission filed in U.S. District Court in New Haven, Connecticut.

Despite his 15 years of experience as a journeyman carpenter and “numerous safety certifications” from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the EEOC said Thursday that the companies chose not to hire Mr. Lebovitz after learning of his dyslexia, which “substantially limits his ability to read,” according to court documents.

The companies also refused to consider a reasonable accommodation for Mr. Lebovitz's condition, concluding that hiring him would present a safety risk to other workers, according to the EEOC's lawsuit.

The EEOC is seeking back wages and punitive damages on Mr. Lebovitz's behalf.

“Employers and applicants can often settle an apparent hindrance caused by a disability by simply exploring accommodation options,” Kevin Berry, the EEOC’s New York district director, said in a statement. “These companies would not even discuss that and simply refused to hire the man, apparently thinking that was the easiest option for them. That, as it turned out, was obviously not the case.”

Robert Rose, the EEOC’s acting regional attorney for New York, added that the suit should remind employers of the agency’s intent to “continue to prosecute cases where job applicants’ basic rights are violated.”

“It is unfortunate that many employers still deny work opportunities to qualified people who are ready and able to perform the job, simply because of myths and fears about their medical impairments or disabilities,” Mr. Rose said in the statement.

Bond Bros. Inc. was a subcontractor to McPhee Electric during construction of a power utility substation in New Haven in 2012.

McPhee Electric and Bond Bros. were not immediately available for comment.