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Firm settles bias charge over forklift operator requirements


A Pennsylvania paper company has agreed to pay $180,000 to settle an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission disability discrimination lawsuit in which it was charged with violating federal law by requiring forklift operators to meet Dept. of Transportation standards, even though it is not required.

The EEOC said in a statement dated Tuesday that York, Pennsylvania-based P.H. Glatfelter Co., a global paper manufacturer, required all individuals who applied for or worked in positions involving the operation of forklifts or similar motorized industrial equipment to undergo a medical exam and pass a DOT physical qualification standard for the operation of commercial motor vehicles, even though this is not required by the DOT. The EEOC said Glatfelter applied this standard “in a manner that screened out qualified individuals with disabilities.”

The EEOC said also the company did not conduct individualized assessments of applicants and employees' ability to operate the equipment at issue, “or determine whether a reasonable accommodation would enable them to do so.”

The agency said Glatfelter had rescinded job offers to two qualified applicants with disabilities in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Under terms of the settlement, in addition to paying $180,000 to the two individuals, the company must revise its qualification standard “to ensure that it is job-related and consistent with business necessity” and includes an individualized assessment of a candidate's ability to do the job with or without reasonable accommodation, the EEOC said.

“Employers may choose to adopt qualification standards, but they must be consistent with the purpose and intent of applicable federal law,” said EEOC Philadelphia District Director Spencer H. Lewis Jr., in a statement.

“And those standards must accurately measure the individual's ability to perform the essential functions of the actual job at issue.”

A company spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

In November, a packaging firm agreed to pay $1.7 million to conciliate an EEOC disability discrimination charge, in a case involving a nationwide policy of issuing attendance points for medical related absences and not allowing leaves as a reasonable accommodation.